In many ways we are creating a brand new society in our facility.
We are literally pulling people out of the woods and integrating them into a community.
These are hunters and gatherers. They went out everyday looking for items to stay alive. Begging for money. Waiting on line for meals. Waiting in line for services. Stealing to eat.
They are now farmers.
They need to work together as a community.
Hierarchies naturally form.
The leader. The organizer. The security.
The leader is the visionary. He’s the person who has a dream.
The organizer is quiet. But yet influential. They sign people in, control paperwork. They make the system flow.
Security is powerful. They too are idealists. Any society is at risk of being ruled by security. It’s probably why America is always at war. Security clamps down in the name of safety and security.
Security isn’t wrong. Crime is happening.
Things get stolen. Stolen property is entering our facility. We just found a needle in our trash pile. Fortunately the person put the cap on it so no one got hurt.
In a normal society these are infractions that need to be clamped down on. It undermines progress and the right to quiet enjoyment that we all have come to expect in our own community.
But there is one difference: this is not normal society. There wouldn’t be a need for us if it was.
These are addicts. This is a community with close to 100% having mental health issues. These are outcasts. These are thieves.
This is a stepping stone society. This is society lite. We are the transition.
Keep in mind, this community just started in January. And none of us are experts at community creation, much less creating a community made up entirely of damaged people.
We are feeling our way around in the dark.
But this is where my thinking is now: physical safety is crucial. We have women here. And some day I’m sure we’ll have children.
People come here because it’s safer than the woods. I’ve been told that by a woman who came here from the woods.
They also crave security of their belongings. This is an ongoing issue in the homeless community at large. I’m going to go buy wood and supplies for people to make lock boxes today. I think it will be our first wood project.
But then, in my mind, everything else possibly needs to get lax.
Our security people are incredibly vigilant. They work really hard. So evolving our security needs to be handled gently. I don’t want to undermine them. We need them.
We’ve been talking a lot about items that are being stolen from the facility.
In my mind, that seems a little ironic. We are here to give things away.
But on the other hand, as an example, we are finding that people are taking a lot of toiletries.
Security believes people are taking these items to sell for drugs or alcohol.
I suspect it’s less dubious. Staying clean is not easy for the homeless. I think they are just storing these things for future use.
As an example, we recently had a drama where a lot of toiletries were taken.
It turns out that the items were taken by a family with 7 kids. They truly needed them.
My belief is that if we don’t want items to get “stolen” then it should be on us to secure them.
We have a decent amount of hand tools in our woodworking shop. Those would be difficult to replace quickly. So we should secure those and maybe only let them be used in our shop by residents. Staff could use them around the facility.
All of our toiletries are sitting out in the open. This is our problem, not theirs. We should secure them and hand them out in bags if we’re concerned about people taking too many items.
Of course these people are going to “steal.” They have nothing. They are addicts. They are mentally ill. They are thieves by necessity.
Let them take what they want and secure the items we don’t want to lose.
We have the facility to secure anything we want to secure.
We are working with people that need help. We are working with people that require us to be better people.
Our goal is to be more than just a warehouse for people society doesn’t know what to do with. We constantly talk about trying not to become a prison. But it’s incredibly tempting.
We must give them an environment where they can transition gradually from being hunter and gatherer outsiders.
We must be a place where they can interact in ways they are comfortable interacting while not setting them up for failure.
You don’t put a quitting alcoholic in a bar. And you don’t put a thief in a sea of unsecured items they aren’t allowed to take. It’s just a recipe for failure.
And ultimately we have to remember it’s all just stuff.
One of the greatest lessons homelessness teaches is that things and money come and go. They don’t define us. They don’t matter. Truly, we can live without them (and focus on what is really important, I might add). It’s one of the greatest gifts homelessness gives you. Hopefully these people will carry it with them for the rest of their lives.
God is good. We came from nothing and now we have more than we need.
The lesson for us is: people before things. God is on our side. He will provide endlessly for us.
Don’t worry about things. Worry about people.