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Community Development , Homelessness

Collectivism With Compassion: Solving Homelessness Through Shared Experiences

29 November 2018
Grace Fontanarosa, Partnership for Strong Communities

Grace Fontanarosa
Development Associate
Partnership for Strong Communities

Growing up, my family was not rich. In fact, we were quite poor. Neither of my parents had a college education, and both worked long hours to care for me and my sisters. We lived in a small apartment complex which stood out among the houses with big glass windows and green lawns. I watched my parents struggle to make ends meet by living paycheck to paycheck to ensure we were well taken care of; never hungry, always clean, and as happy as possible.

Quality of life cannot be taken for granted. The life you live will never exactly match the lived experiences of those around you. There are varying degrees of joys and struggles, pains and blessings that we all face throughout our lives. Circumstances arise that you can never really plan for; like my sister’s near-death experience, which left theentire family reeling. We can try to make contingencies for these things but until they happen, you never truly know what is possible.

Anyone who has experienced scarcity and instability knows that life can’t always be what you try to make it. No matter how hard you work, there are other forces in play that can obstruct your path. You suddenly find yourself dropping everything to care for a family member; or perhaps you encounter institutional racism and sexism in the workforce that don’t allow you to succeed to your fullest potential. Your plans get delayed, pushed back, and you’re left to start over.

All of these are reasons to spread tolerance, love, empathy, and compassion. Using these principles as guides, we fight for change. No one should experience homelessness. No one should feel judged for the circumstances that brought them there. In order to begin this discourse, we must first shatter the stereotypes surrounding issues of homelessness. These people can be veterans who were provided with no resources to thrive upon return. They can be a person having an uphill battle with mental illness or addiction. They can be a mother with children fleeing a situation of domestic violence with all her assets frozen. They can be LGBTQ youth who were disowned and are now living on the street. Or they could be a family facing rising costs of living that are beginning to sink lower and lower until they inevitably lose their home at the expense of hunger. They can be anyone. These are our neighbors.

I strongly believe that we are obligated to listen to and build them up, as we would hope they would do in return. At the Partnership, I have the tools and the opportunity to be an agent of change in such a unique position, and I look forward to furthering our goal of ending homelessness in Connecticut. It is an important goal, and one that we must all strive toward, with hope, dedication, and understanding as our foundation.

But, more than anything, I have learned that life is beautiful. Each of us has a story to tell, and many more experiences to gain. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in one’s shoes to truly feel and understand them. It is imperative that we collect as many testimonies as possible, for we will never get a full picture until it is painted by many different hands. And in turn, unleash the power of your own testimony. The truth only comes out when you raise your voice.