This winter has been a challenging one. The weather here has been colder than normal and constantly wet. We do not have the excitement of several inches of snow here, just enough to make the roads a mess and still not have a snow day! ( :P) This weather is hard on our clients and hard on the staff. The SWES shelter takes a lot of energy from the core program, even though it is crucial for our clients to make it through winter.
Good news from SWES however, is that we have been able to strengthen partnerships with housing programs and get some of our most vulnerable people people into treatment and or housing. There is one program we work with in particular that has exemplified the potential in partnership and collaboration. New Lease On Life is a dual diagnosis housing program for chronically street homeless. We bring them a referral and team up to make the connections needed to get the ball rolling. They initiate care from an integrated team of psychiatrists, nurses, therapists and social workers and we help by bringing people to them, helping them understand their whereabouts and doing outreach for them. This collaboration is the direction social services needs to head if there is any hope for providing true continuity of care and housing stability in the most vulnerable. Such a model is perfect for those who are dually diagnosed, but the most impressive part of NLOL is that they meet people where they are. They provide structure and support but are flexible to the needs and wishes of clients. They help people develop their own goals in wellness, education and employment. Most importantly to me honestly, is that they see our people as people. They recognize their humor, their charm and their value. In health care especially, it is easy for providers to see diagnoses, psychiatric evaluations, criminal records and physical appearance as the focus of who people are. To treat the label, to judge the appearance and to fear the records inhibit providers and the like from hearing the voices of our clients and seeing their hearts. It is easy to shrug off the disheveled, odorous grump who drinks heavily or the man who talks to himself and has obsessive compulsive tendancies. What is important is that you give the person time to be heard. To learn that the disheveled man was a skilled mechanic, that hes got a great sense of humor and that he is kind. It is imperative to see that the man with schizophrenia is just that, a man. He is not a threat, a burden or undeserving of care.
The fun stuff:
Though the winter can be overbearing on us all, we have definitely tried to make the best of it in community! Last week was Sean’s birthday and we all set out to the Hofbrauhaus Beer Garden/restaurant last weekend. It is a massive dining hall with a German theme where everyone (literally all ages and families too early on) stand on tables and sing along to the music and cheer. It was a sight to see and we all had a lot of fun. We were also invited to family dinner with Sean’s family, which is ALWAYS a blast. His family has been extremely welcoming to us as a community. We ate jumbalaya, laughed and shared lots of cake and ice cream. (unrelated, but I have tried so many new foods since coming to Pittsburgh!)
We have also been talking with and meeting potential volunteers for next year. This is an important time for post grad volunteer applications so it has been exciting for us all to be a part of someone elses experience!
This weekend we are going on our Silent Retreat. For those of you less familiar with such a concept, this is a time for us to spend time quietly reflecting. We are given guidlines to spend our time intentionally and encouraged not to use phones or even read. I honestly anticipate this to be a challenge for me but I am hopeful that it will be a peaceful and restful time in the midst of this month.
I am hoping to hit the ice this weekend with Rachel, it has been too cold to do much of anything outside for quite a while.
That is all for now! Sorry for the sporadic nature of blogging as of late, I am in need of some recalibration in my time management. 🙂