Winter and Construction. – Mariana Diaz

They say there are two seasons here – winter and construction. I have personally counted close to 20 cranes in the city’s skyline before, luxury apartments built in the blink of an eye. Yet this city is bursting at its seams trying to house people. I remember contacting the leasing agent at an income restricted building i.e. affordable housing and I remember her response being “Is your move in date flexible? Our current wait list is 3 months to a year.”

I alone can’t afford to live in Denver. I am incredibly lucky to have a support system – like my long term boyfriend, Tim, his family, and my family that will allow me to work part time and attend graduate school here. I have met many people this year not much younger than me who aren’t as lucky. People whose main support system are the staff at the homeless shelter where they live.

I’ll tell anyone who will listen that the shelter I work at is disgusting. There is a funk that permeates every area, it burns your nostrils even long after you’re gone, and eventually it starts to affect your mood. It is affectionately called “Shelter Rot.” It hits us all eventually staff and youth alike. There is a leak coming in through the dining room window – a space that at night doubles as a sleeping area for the males who do not fit in the dorm. There isn’t space for their belongings – so many end up with stuff stolen or lost. I spend my days there cleaning, but there is always too much to clean, layers of grime that not even the strongest chemical can break through.  We joke about burning the place to the ground and restarting. You can imagine that I’m never surprised that the youth don’t do their chores. Many of them hate the shelter, but for those same youth the shelter is their only safe space. The staff there their only support system.

That isn’t to mention that the shelter only sleeps up to 40 youth on any given night… so there are a lot more youth who choose the street every night.

Tonight I had the privilege of attending an event where youth from the shelter asked for change through photography. Their photos showed me something I already knew, but that many people refuse to recognize – homeless people are people too.

People just like you. People who deserve to be seen, appreciated, and supported. People who deserve community, a safe place to lay their heads, and love. People who unfortunately turn to the streets, to drugs, and alcohol to cope with their trauma.

I walked out of that show in awe of their courage to share their photos, their stories, and their voice. Only to walk right past a building being built where apartments are starting at $400,000.

The transitional housing sites that are run by the same nonprofit that runs the shelter I serve at have waiting lists that are at this time full. Six months before you will probably even be considered for a place. There are currently 40 youth just at the shelter searching for housing, not to say that they’re all ready, but those that are will probably be at the shelter for a while before housing becomes an option.

And those waiting lists aren’t just for the youth who have accessed our services through the shelter, nope they’re open to any young adult who meets the requirements.

The sky rises continue to go up as people who can find the means to afford them continue to move here.

Yet places like the shelter don’t have the funds to do more than operate and those operating funds come with strict requirements from funding sources that don’t take into account the individual needs of the shelter.

It’s all about the money so why would we pay attention to those who don’t have any of it?

—-

If you’re in Denver, CO and are interested in viewing the gallery of the photographs taken by the youth of the shelter they will hang at The Molecule Effect Café, at 1201 Santa Fe Dr, for the next week May 18th – May 25th.

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Being Called “Trash” and Eating a Cookie: Veronica Farrell

So, I genuinely tried to come up with other topics for this blog. I had a list. I was brainstorming. Madly typing to keep from staring at the endlessly blinking cursor that is writer’s block.

However, I just spent the morning at work covering the front desk and had a conversation with a participant who only addressed me as “trash.” Yes that’s right, trash. As in, I’m a piece of. So that’s what you get to read about today.

A participant called me trash today all because I was curt with her after she repeatedly cut me off. I politely (at least I genuinely think so) told her to let me finish explaining the service she was asking about because it would answer most of her additional questions and we could move on from there. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to like being spoken to that way and I think she got quite a bit of pleasure out of making sure I felt the same way. For example, when I tried to pull her away from the volunteer medical professional she chose to rant at, who was providing free heart health screenings, I was told, “don’t worry trash, I have a college degree like you. I know how to play stupid too.”

So I let it go and went back to the front desk shaking with anger, getting supportive pats on the back from volunteers and coworkers. “It happens” and “it was mental illness” and “there’s nothing you could do” and “I would have done the same” were traded around the circle inside the welcome desk. I appreciated the understanding from my peers and the comfort of shrinking into my seat behind the raised desk, enjoying the barrier it created.

About half hour later, the volunteer medical professional returned from her lunch and over that wide, protective welcome desk counter she delivered me a jumbo chocolate chip cookie from the convenience store across the street. “I’ve been in this field a long time,” she said, “don’t stress.” I almost cried, people. I have no idea why that cookie meant so much more to me than anybody’s words, but it did. Although, it might just be a sign of sugar addiction.

Sitting in the kitchen shoveling my lunch and cookie down, all I could think about was what I did wrong and what I could have done better. Flipping through my planner to distract myself, I came across a couple end-of-month reflections where I had listed the same area of improvement back-to-back. Suddenly, I remembered a conversation I had with my spiritual director a long time ago about planning for failure. I asked for a fancy passion planner for Christmas and it has lots of space for making long term goals and outlining short term steps throughout the week. It’s really useful, but one afternoon I shared with her a goal for this program and how I would achieve it. To my surprise, she responded immediately with “what’s your plan if you can’t make that happen?”

I can’t say that was exactly what I was looking for, but when it comes to working with other people (especially those in marginalized populations) I can’t control every interaction and outcome. So how am I preparing myself for when things don’t go the way I planned? How can I handle imperfect situations and still be happy? What’s my Plan B for acceptance and letting go?

I may not have the answer just yet, but I’m a whole lot closer to it with such supportive living and work environments. And jumbo chocolate chip cookies.

 

I Think Blogs Are Stupid: George Monroe

I truly don’t know why writing about an experience in the 1st person makes my skin crawl.  It can be easy to come up with excuses for not nurturing internal dialogue by writing down thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Maybe the pressure of writing to an audience with enlightening levels of detail and wit, structure and passion is too overwhelming. Maybe one can be too lazy and just not feel like writing. Another obstacle that we all have experience with is the primal fear of stage fright and the presumption that nobody cares about we are saying. Prioritizing something that you don’t care too much for or can inflict fear proves difficult.

These blogs take time out of the day. Time away from community members in the house. Time away from new experiences and all there is to learn out there in the great state of Colorado. Time away from Netflix, YouTube, and anything else that isn’t writing a blog. (The validity of previous examples may vary according to your opinion on this matter).

Some say that blogs can be overthought, that writing personal thoughts for the whole world to see is simpler than it seems. One could suggest putting up a quick photo and writing a blurb about the contents. It’s that easy!!! Yea… well, it’s not me.  Blogs and diaries may be useful for some by allowing for true personal reflection. It’s great that some people find solace and inspiration from these practices, but I would say this practice has caused the opposite for me. This is not the first blog I’ve written, but it’s the first one I’m posting. People also often suggest to write about my struggles in this program so here you go, a true representation of one of my biggest struggles in this program so far.

These blogs are pitched as a tool for us interns to find different ways to self-reflect and grow. Just like medications and treatments work differently within patients, this technique has given others a voice to be heard, but me a pain in the ass. If you want to hear my opinion on the world or the state of homelessness in Denver, then by all means message me on Facebook, text, or call. I’m right here ready to share my opinions in conversation. And if you want to learn about ESC and what happens in this house, that’s the only way to do it. Connect. Reading an edited version of events from someone whose parents don’t know they say the word “fuck”, isn’t really what happens here. So there you go. Colorado ESC is awesome, the best year of my life. Still, I think blogs are stupid.

Eh, I’m not sure what to title this. by Evan Brock

So, this is the blog I have for today. It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog. To be honest, I’m not really sure what to talk to you about. Maybe a reflection? Or even a prediction? Ha! I’ m just kidding, I can’t see the future. Trust me, if I were psychic I may have more money and I wouldn’t be writing a blog. But in all seriousness I will give a brief update on what’s been happening.

For starters, work has not been what I expected. I’ve made many mistakes, I’ve been told of my mistakes, and I beat myself up for my mistakes. I’ve learned that my pride has a negative effect on others around me. I’ve also learned that my largest room for growth is becoming more self aware. One of my greatest flaws is that I am oblivious to some of my actions or inactions. This has proven to have a detrimental effect on my communication skills with members of my house and at work. I’ve noticed that it puts me in my own world. I may hear directions or suggestions and think I know what is going on, but when I make a mistake, I clearly do not.

One of the biggest revelations I’ve had is that the specific form of youth development is not for me. I enjoy the silliness of kids; the laughter, the foolishness, the bickering, all of it gives me a smile, even when I get headaches from the ones who need more work. But, I also am not a fan of sitting at a desk. I don’t like feeling cramped in a office. I also don’t like feeling that I’m not good enough. I believe I have something to offer in this life and perhaps what I am good at is not what the Boy’s and girls Club needs.

I enjoy being hands on with my work; this can be cleaning or organizing. I like to be on my feet and I like to get results. This is not something that I see everyday with the kids. Youth development is not a field where the impact is short term. To be general, the goal is for kids to become productive members of society, your not going to see that when a kid is 6 years old. I also believe that you can’t see that in a outline or a attendance sheet.

There are many things that I need to improve on myself. For instance, why am I not willing to be vulnerable? Am I scared? Am I prideful? Do I believe that men are seen as the problem and that sharing feelings makes you superior? Maybe some for the last question. But am I the problem? Who knows, I cannot give a answer to that this moment. I do my job to the best of my ability and I like to get results. I want to see improvement in myself and my work. I want to feel that I am a part of something that is bigger than me. I feel that when I am with ESC, but not BGC. I don’t get a sense of camaraderie at work, but I do with ESC. Perhaps there are many jobs that are solely focused on a individual.

Funny how this is spring time. In Steamboat, the rain comes off and on during the week. But the good news is that there will be new life, and green trees. This Thursday I will interview for a conservation corps position in Montana. Different work, but there are things that I like. This interview gives me a new focus. Even if I do not get the position, it is a reminder that where I am now is only temporary. Wherever I go, there are questions that I need to answer about myself. Hopefully, I can answer some of these before the program ends.

But, on a lighter note, there are many fun things that happened as well. We’ve had the Denver house come for a visit, Spring break came and went, and on Easter I ate too much food. Some upcoming events are house blessing next Friday, a few bucket list days with the house, and I will be returning to Birmingham for a wedding at the beginning of June. These events are fun and a nice change of pace. I’ve also started lifting weights again. I usually go in the mornings to get it out of the way, but this morning I am finishing this blog; so I’ll exercise after work this day.

Who knows what will happen? I don’t know if God has some plan for me or if I know where to find God in the good or the not so good. The only thing I can do at this point is to focus on the task at hand at my job and do the best that I can. That is all that is needed I guess. Only time will tell. See you next time

耶 穌 說 : 我 若 不 洗 你 , 你 就 與 我 無 分 了 。- Esther Ou

After a week of church almost everyday, I got pretty tired of the mandatory services. Holy Week was never a part of my denomination’s liturgy or calendar, so needless to say, I was “churched out.”

Now that I’ve had a week or two to look back and process through Holy Week, I believe God may have hidden some subtle lessons for me.

On Maundy Thursday, the passage was a church favorite:  Jesus washes the feet of the disciple. Because it’s preached about quite often, I didn’t think too much of it and assumed the homily would talk about serving others. While that was one of the explored themes, that night was also different in a few ways.

First, we need to learn how to give and receive love. Most of the time, especially in fellowships/congregations I’ve been a part of, I’ve known many who constantly give their time, energy, and love. They give and give, until they “burn out.” Service, however, does not exist without receiving grace. That can look like refusing to accept someone’s offer to pay for coffee or denying another’s compliment. We paradoxically crave affirmation but frequently reject it.

Expanding on that concept, our parish in Denver did something I’ve personally never experienced before:  we washed one another’s feet. Rather than simply reading the passage, as is usually done, members of the congregation were invited to participate in doing what Jesus did. We actually queued up, knelt down, and physically washed each other’s feet. I think we take for granted what Jesus did, which was expected of a servant. But unlike our 2017 feet, which with modern technology and plumbing are relatively clean, the disciples lived in sandals, sand and dirt caked onto their toes and the soles of their feet after the day’s journey, and probably smelled pretty bad. Those are the feet Jesus cleaned– twelve pairs of them.

And I was reminded of a homeless woman that usually takes the same bus I am on in the morning. The moment she walks by, a strong unpleasant scent wafts. And trust me, it smells awful to the point I try to strategically sit in a seat that effectively evades the stench. (Yes, I know, it’s a mean thing to do.)

But the question popped up in my head:  what if she were the one sitting on the wooden chair,  feet in the basin of water at church, and I was to wash her feet?

I’m going to be honest, I would naturally want to avoid touching them. I don’t know where her feet have been or how many days have passed without a proper shower. And yet, Jesus would have knelt down and washed her feet with as much love and care as anyone else. He would not have cared about her economic status. (He criticized the elite Pharisees and Sadducees openly.) Most of all, what he did would have be an act of true love — not because it was easy, but because he would have seen her as someone with full dignity, worthy of love.

I don’t know this woman’s story. I don’t know where she came from or what she’s been through. I don’t even know her name.

Regardless, should I put down my ego and wash her feet? Or walk past and ignore her?

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” – John 13:8b