In our words, in our community
Photograph by Macaulay Lerman
Audio by Vermont Folklife
1. "People just walk in and feel comfortable..." (2:03)
So I am a housing advocate. I work in what's called the Community Resource Center. And I am there for people to just kind of drop in, get help with case management, applications for benefits, housing, and signing up for insurance. Basically, any--like applying for emergency housing, applying for long-term housing. People will come in and be like, "I don't have a place to sleep tonight. I need help right now" and we'll make that happen. And just kind of whatever--like we have food, obviously. Food is a really good way to kind of build those connections and relationships with people. And we have clothes and other, like, hygiene products and things. So we just--people just walk in and feel comfortable enough. It's a super low barrier space, they feel comfortable enough talking to us and is asking for whatever they need, and we can usually make it happen.
We open for breakfast. Our busiest time is definitely right when we open at nine for breakfast. I will either be at the front desk checking people in, I will be serving food, or I'll be just kind of hanging out for people to ask questions to. Typically, I do applications for the different housing authorities around so people can get on waitlists. I do, we do, a lot of calling to Economic Services to get people in emergency housing in the hotel system. A lot of connecting people with case managers. We do coordinated entry referrals, where people get on lists for housing and get, like, a long-term housing case manager. So yeah, I just kind of hang out and--there's some clients that have long-term stuff. Like right now I'm helping someone who is facing a non-renewal of his lease for no cause. So trying to figure out how long he can actually stay without like going through the eviction process and then trying to find other places for him to move to, and kind of helping him like kind of conceptualize the whole thing. And it's having a pretty big toll on his mental health as well. So just being there as a support person for that also.
2. "For the most part, we have built a really good community of people..." (1:29)
For the most part, we have built a really good community of people, and everyone really, for the most part, looks out for each other. And if people will meet people on the streets or whatever and bring them here and be like, "This person needs help with this and this, I told them to come here because you guys can help," which is really cool. Some of them also have a hard time understanding why other people are the way that they are. Even if they're both struggling, they're struggling in different ways. One person might be schizophrenic and talking to themselves. The other person is like, "Stop talking like you're bothering me. I'm just here to eat food." And we just try to maintain a safe environment for everyone. So just being like, "You can relocate over here if he is bothering you, but we're not going to kick them out for talking." So just trying to like, mediate those kinds of things between clients. And, yes, I would say for the most part, everyone realizes that they're all just people that are also struggling, maybe on a very different scale of their own. But they were just here to get food and hang out and get help. And yeah, I think people just feel very safe and cared for.
3. "A lot of people's biases and assumptions...come from places of privilege." (1:26)
Yeah, I very often find myself in conversations about privilege, and with people who don't quite fully realize the privilege that they have. So like me, I, know that I have the privilege of being white, being born in America, being raised well, having both parents in my life, having a good upbringing, not having, like, major trauma, going to school, being able to go to college--that's a big one. Being able to work. A lot of people's biases and assumptions about people come from places of privilege of their own, and they don't realize that they have those privileges. And so they'll be like, "Why don't they just get a job" or, or like, "Why didn't you go to college?" Or "Why didn't you start working earlier?" Or "Why are you addicted to heroin" or stuff like that. And I just--I think a big thing that I like to advocate for is people realizing the privilege that they have and that they're just the place that they were born, how they were raised, the way--just the way they, are and just have helping people see that and realize that not everyone is that lucky.