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Walk In These Shoes

battered shoes
These are actual shoes of a client...his only pair

Homelessness has been a hot topic in our community. Homelessness is a challenge for many communities across our country. Some communities have faced the challenge with compassion and creativity. Other communities have relied on traditional programing. Unfortunately, there are communities who have criminalized homelessness in a effort to make survival impossible.

The most successful programs are those based on compassion and humanity. Addiction and homelessness have root causes, trauma being a common thread. Most programming views addiction as the root cause of homelessness, when it is actually a symptom. Bottomline, trauma is THE gateway drug. Trauma is a voice in your head that can not be shut off. It tells you, you are not worthy, you deserve nothing, you are to moves your rock bottom further and further down. Trauma causes mental illness and mental illness causes trauma. Trauma causes addiction and addiction causes trauma. Trauma causes homelessness and homelessness causes trauma. To successfully treat mental illness, addiction and homelessness, TRAUMA MUST BE THE FOCUS OF THE TREATMENT.

Daily the unhoused are verbally abused, some are physically abused or worse. They are easy targets. "Get a job, you bum" "Druggie" "Meth-head" "Worthless" "No good" These words are flung at the unhoused daily. Many of the unhoused we have come to know, have come from traumatic childhoods. You do not outgrow the effects of trauma. Trauma does not disappear after a "rescue". Other forms of trauma are PTSD, domestic violence, rape, death of a loved one, loss of job/house, violence, etc.. We hear these stories over and over.

unhoused individual with gloves and holding head in hands
Trauma is interwoven throughout homelessness

It is impossible to go through life without trauma, so why do some struggle and some overcome? This is complex. Support systems, financial resources, coping skills, family support, and community support are some of the factors that play a part. Those families with financial resources can provide excellent counseling and medical support after a trauma. Having a strong family support system can help traumatized children and adults avoid the pitfalls. Understanding that we all walk a different path, can help us be compassionate to those who struggle more than we do through trauma.

battered shoes
Walking in these shoes is very difficult.

Walk a mile in my shoes... The photo is of a pair of shoes belonging to a gentleman who visited our bus. One of our regulars encouraged him to come, walking with him to the bus. Many of our unhoused are hesitant to come. They have been judged and let down too many times. Trust of a human is nearly impossible. This gentleman and our brief encounter touched me deeply for several reasons. When he approached, I watched our Outreach Team go into action. Welcoming him without being overwhelming. He was a tall, shy gentleman. It was hard not to see his shoes. Each step exposed a layer separating from the shoe. His feet told the story of the miles he walked.

When we discovered his size, we knew we could not provide shoes for him from our supply. It took merely a look and Curt, our BOD President and financial guy, handed us the debit card. Amanda and I hopped in the car, leaving him in the care of Curt and Jaimie and our tight, supportive Marty Bus community. We did not need to use the resources, as we found a pair of shoes that fit him and socks to boot in Amanda's basement. I think all of our families have grown accustomed to donating for the cause!

He was so appreciative. He also found a jacket his size. We had conversations and a few laughs. We have not seen him since, but he left his battered shoes behind. A symbol of our a motto we base our programming on...Before you judge, walk a mile in my shoes...

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