Support Nets

Knock, Knock, Knock!

Every morning I start the work day with banging the front door to get someone to open the door for me, followed by a bright “Good Morning” and “How are you?” I don’t do this to grease to social interaction, but because I genuinely care for these people. A little under a month of working with my coworker and I feel like part of the team, a part of the family.

Broad Street Ministry’s motto is Radical Hospitality. If you would ask any of the staff what this means, you would probably get differing answers that seem made up on the spot. It is not a well formed, concrete idea that BSM promotes, but its a motto that we live. Community drives the organization through the guest interactions and the staff action.

The BSM community finds its foundations in the team the runs the organization. Each little department has their quirks and rituals that all fit into a bigger family that is BSM. Maybe this a bit too romantic depiction of the interrelationships, but organization that uses community as a healing medium, must have a functioning community to support a larger population.

An important lens that I’ve learn to see through is how having nothing changes one’s mindset. Many of these guests have not only seen an absence of monetary capital, but familial and peer capital. I learned that it usually takes about a year and a half before the resources of one’s support network will run out. Eventually people have had enough and are unwilling to give more for “old time’s sake.” Live without money may be hard, but when it seems that people who used to care about you have turned a blind eye, it seems easy to feel invisible.

Many of our guests often feel as if no one can see them on the streets as they beg for money or simply sit around. All the people on the street don’t even make eye contact in fear of feeling obligated to give a little to the fellow. I have to admit that even I do this. All the time. I just rush past them never giving the time of day.

One of the many facts that the volunteer orientation give is how BSM keeps a close ear to guests’ needs. In fact, the mail service that now serves around 3,200 guests started with only one guest asking to have a package sent to BSM. A whole service that many of the guests needed started by listening to just one person. I believe that the community provides a new support system that these people have lacked when time were trying.

BSM is a place to feel seen again. To be part of something again. A family, a home. Or at least a place to be greeted by name and welcomed.

This starts with the community that holds everything together, the volunteers and the staff.  I’ve felt the welcoming spirit that BSM promotes and now wish that I can spread that same welcome that was extended to me.


One thought on “Support Nets

  1. Hey Paul! I really liked your article and I’m glad things are getting better/smoother at work! Homelessness is a topic very important to me, so I’m glad to read about your experiences and how working there is impacting your personal life and decisions. It can be a pretty tricky line to balance, but it seems like you reflect a lot!


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