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I have nowhere to go tonight. I am a 73-year-old woman who must now sleep in my car. I never thought I would ever become homeless. What do I do now?
These are the deeply distressing words that homeless service providers often hear from those who come through the door of our agencies every day. “What do I do now?” Sometimes there is an answer, such as a referral to an emergency shelter, and other times there isn’t anything much to say.
Those of us who have worked directly with persons experiencing homelessness know the heartache of bearing witness to someone struggling during the worst moment in their life. Experiencing homelessness firsthand is overwhelming. Uncertainty of the future can quickly lead to despair. And it can wear on providers: as much as we encourage trauma-informed care for the people we serve, we should also encourage it within ourselves. Doing so will help us to become more resilient homeless service providers, and more resilient people overall.
Trauma-Informed Care and Resiliency
Aiding those who are unhoused can be taxing. It is incredibly hard to see another human being suffer. It can take a toll mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Several of my colleagues and I over the years have found that difficult to admit. We did this work because we cared. We also knew in our hearts that taking on the weight of the world was too much for any one of us to handle.
COVID-19 has added an extra layer: those in this line of work continuously see coworkers going to other jobs, leaving those left behind with extra work and an uncertain future relationship. Employees of color face another layer of adversity. Historical trauma cannot be ignored. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities disproportionally represent direct service professionals. Not only do we contend with second-hand trauma, but also the unwavering hardships of racism and inequality in everyday life. Encouraging self-care and ensuring resiliency are critical steps to make sure service providers are cared for in their workplace, especially in the midst of these difficult times.
Read the full article about trauma-informed care and resiliency by Samantha Wood at The National Alliance to End Homelessness.