by Leize Marie Davis
At Atlanta Mission, a major focus of ending someone’s homelessness is obtaining secure housing. A client who is ready to transition out of our facility and into the “real world” will:
- Understand how to manage finances to remain in housing.
- Understand life skills necessary to maintain stable living.
- Obtain safe, affordable, and permanent housing, spending less than 50% of income.
Permanent housing has no set length of stay and there is a formal lease or informal agreement protecting our clients from unfairly losing their housing. Clients who have achieved this outcome will move into safe and stable communities.
As we have asked our clients what they value in a physical space, they emphasize safety. Through listening to them, I have been challenged to think about safety from their perspective, not my own. Our clients have lived most of their lives in spaces that are unsafe, both physically and emotionally. Almost all have experienced some type of trauma and/or abuse. Many have never had a good night’s sleep because they were worried about what could happen to them, their families, and their belongings.
Over the past few weeks, I realized I take safety for granted. I have never experienced homelessness or most of the threats our clients regularly encounter. Their definition a safe space is very different than my own. For example, I tend to see large fences as something that communicates isolation and a barrier to community. However, our clients see it as a protection for them. Something as simple as a buzzer at the gate at our facilities provides refuge.
The men, women, and children we serve have lost everything, and the little they have left is very precious. Keeping them and their belongings safe sends a strong message that we care. However, we must also continually listen to our clients’ definitions of priorities. Their voice is important. As we seek to understand our clients’ experiences, we must also be willing to challenge our own worldviews to see things from their perspective.