Homelessness

What Might Be Right For You…

 

Nathan Fox, Hartford’s Center Church Warburton director of outreach

Two weeks ago, on one of the coldest nights of the year, I found myself sitting in my office at 6:30 p.m. as I watched a male and female couple struggle to decide where they would sleep that night. After calling the Hartford shelter triage line, there were two realistic choices available – either split up and enter separate shelters, or scrape together their last $50 to pay for a hotel room.

In that moment, I knew what they should do – save their money and accept the shelter placements that had been arranged for them. Besides, after the night, tomorrow they’d be faced with the prospect of entering shelter once again… So why delay the inevitable?

They didn’t see things my way. They ultimately chose to pay for a hotel room, against what I believed was better judgment.

This was my truth. But what was their truth? To answer this question, I encourage us all to pause for a minute to really think about it, and ask ourselves what we would do if in the same position – not what we would choose for someone else from the comfort of our warm office.

Once I asked myself this question, my frustrations quickly evaporated. Faced with the decision of splitting up with my partner to sleep not just in a separate bed, but a separate shelter for what could be a week, a month, or more… I would choose to spend one last night avoiding what amounts to a miserable “choice.”

All around us, we see people faced with similarly difficult choices. This isn’t to dump on shelters. But it is to challenge us all to use a little more empathy before becoming frustrated with the people we serve. Because when we fail to use patience, and when we fail to place ourselves in the shoes of others, we fail to recognize the humanity in everyone and ultimately miscast some as deserving of their plight.

Let’s be honest – none of us would ever want to be faced with the decisions that too many are faced with on a nightly basis. So let’s strive for greater patience and awareness as we continue our collective efforts towards not just housing, but dignity and respect for all.

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