Throughout this entire immersion trip, it has really opened my eyes up to the houselessness situation. I have always been born and raised in Portland, OR but I have always felt that I was sheltered from the harsh struggles that many residents here experience. I spent most of my life in nice suburban areas in Clackamas so I never had a high depth of experience with the huge houselessness situation that is occurring. From my encounters with this specific population serving food at the Blanchet house and St. Andre Bessette church, I learned that they weren’t only of deprived of shelter and food, but also social interaction and love. Their life is a constant state of survival and for most of it, in isolation. Upon serving food, saying a simple “enjoy your meal” or “here you go” can make a world of a difference for them. It humanizes the interaction of providing food and it reminds them that people out here still truly care for them. When they were given name tags, addressing them by their name leaves them in shock and excitement because it has probably been ages since they’ve heard it. When it comes to helping those less fortunate than us, it is important to remember that they are humans who are no different than us. They aren’t just bodies that need to be fed but humans with dignity who deserve some privacy, respect, and compassion. True compassion isn’t just donating food and clothing but also providing hospitality.
People deserve this love and care despite their issues with drug addiction or alcoholism. Most of the people that come through these doors for social services, have gone through a long journey full of struggles that we may not understand because of our privilege. Most of the stories I’ve heard have described that they became houseless due to abuse or growing up in an unstable household. Remembering Eric’s story from the Blanchet house, he grew up in a household where his parents were addicted to methamphetamine and because of this influence, it led him to start meth at a young age of 12 years old. The drugs destroyed his life before he could even understand the joys of his adolescent years. It led him to become houseless and this situation made him depend on meth even more. What many don’t realize is that many houseless individuals depend on meth for survival as it helps them stay alert for longer hours to avoid abuse and theft. He became addicted for 14 years before he managed to seek out help and find the Blanchet House. They gave him structure and helped him become sober for over 14 years and find employment. Blanchet House changed his life because he received the support he needed. Now, he plans on passing on the help by becoming a drug addiction counselor to help others.
When it comes to providing aid, it involves more than just giving away the stuff we don’t need or helping others because they’re seen as a burden to society. Providing aid should come from the goodness of our hearts and that requires understanding the whole picture of what the houseless individual is truly going through. This is why I was so amazed by the healthcare paradigm of Central City Concern as they believe in the Integrated Healthcare model. This model looks at all aspects of what is causing the illness beyond the disease in front of them. They realized that all their issues arise from being houseless as it makes it difficult to get protection from others and nature, avoid drugs, and to find a stable place to find a job. Central City Concern truly preached holistic health and it has lead them to more effectively treat the the houseless populations roots of illness.