Personally, I was writing reflections weekly most of last year, however my writing pace has slowed. I have been focused and practicing balance. Many nights I can't/ don't / won't look at a computer screen any longer. Following my own rules to sleep at least seven hours a night, practice yoga, meditate, and exercise, remains a priority. Nearly a year into this pandemic, I more firmly believe in healthy, servant leadership. My health and balance may appear selfish, and I know that I will fail my team and our mission if I am not in good health.
On the pandemic front, we continue to operate in COVID-mode. We have a minimal number of positive client cases. Employees across the Campus receiving second vaccine doses via Circle the City. Clients are receiving the vaccine. We are juggling funding sources to piece together a plan for the next 12 months to ensure the safety and health of as many people as possible. This is a good problem to have, and it requires intense financial management.
Nearly four weeks to the date of our City Council hearing we received the zoning ordinance stipulations. Now we review them and will meet with City staff to make sure we share the same expectations for compliance. CASS is planning to add shelter beds by summer. With our partners at Andre House we are not giving up on using their vacant building to eventually also shelter more people. More details will be forthcoming as we solidify next steps.
I am fortunate, we at the Campus are fortunate, that County Public Health and Circle the City see our workers as essential and our clients as vulnerable. I received my second dose of vaccine on a Thursday afternoon. The side effects snuck up on me. By late Friday morning I felt like I had a mild flu; head ache, body ache, couldn't concentrate, couldn't sleep, chills. Husband brought me a smoothie and cooked dinner. I took generic night-time cold medicine and slept for 12 hours. When I woke up Saturday morning I was hesitant to move too fast and wake a sleeping giant of side effect. And I was fine. My arm hurt less than after the first shot.
Several thoughts I kept having over the weekend. One: my chances now of contracting COVID, ending up in the hospital, and dying are DRAMATICALLY reduced. What a relief to know that. Two: the vaccine is too late for the people we have already lost; especially my friends Mike and Aaron. Three: I had a home to be in while I temporarily felt like I was sick. And our clients, people unhoused and unsheltered, will not have the benefit of a home to be in should they have side effects from the vaccine.
"Those people," those experiencing homelessness. The faces that cross through my mind, the life stories, the voices, they resonate in my memory. And I have flashes of guilt for what I have and they lack. And I quickly turn that guilt into energy for advocacy and for improving services. And using my voice to explain to people who ask, "why aren't you vaccinating clients faster?" Well, there is limited vaccine quantity for one thing. Secondly, it is a choice. And thirdly, our population is not a group that simply trusts because we tell them they should, or that we have a $5 gift card to incentivize them to receive a vaccine. The disproportionate number of people of color experiencing homelessness do not trust. The vaccine FAQ which is factual is not written in a convincing way, it says "it is not approved." In marketing terms, we are not serving people who are going to be the innovators and early adopters of a vaccine. They are more likely to be the late majority and laggards.
It reminds me of another frequent thought that I have. Something I say to myself often, "what happened to that person?" And I remind myself to ask that question rather than asking "what is wrong with that person?"
It's easy to observe and judge. It's easy to say or think, "what's wrong with those people?" or "what's wrong with them that they don't want the _________(fill in the blank with "housing," "vaccine," "help")?" It's much more difficult to switch the question to "what happened, what experience did they have that leads them to this choice?" For asking that question would mean having to take time to listen and to face the complexity that is humanness. That question requires understanding that we each are on our own journey.
I remain committed and optimistic. I am surrounded by a team, partners, and supporters that are interested in understanding the humanness. We can't/ don't / won't give up on people.