I get several emails per week from people who say that they—and their organizations—are at a breaking point.
They cite the same things:
- Increased numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness.
- More mental illness (and more severe mental illness).
- Overwhelmed staff quitting for better pay and less conflict at Chipotle.
- More physically frail elderly homeless individuals.
- More conflict with everyone (housed and unhoused).
Does it feel harder to do this work than it did a few years ago?
It IS objectively harder than it was a few years ago:
- Homelessness IS surging around the world.
- Covid DID “activate” mental illness in many people.
- The staffing shortage IS hitting underfunded organizations who serve vulnerable communities the hardest.
- The baby-boomer cohort of homeless folks IS getting frail.
- Conflict IS worse than ever. Social media and a changing media landscape are feeding the increasing political polarization.
I don’t tell you this to discourage you. Quite the opposite.
I tell you this for several reasons:
1. You are not weak.
It IS harder.
2. You are not alone.
People around the world are struggling with the same issues.
Talk to each other. Support one another.
Now is the time to lean on your network (or build it).
I know you don’t have the time. Make the time.
3. You may need to make changes.
I don’t believe this is a brief blip on the radar. I think it will be hard for a while.
Now is the time for your organization to re-evaluate everything. Figure out what you need to do to make things sustainable for your staff.
Do you need more staff? Do you need a different staffing structure (e.g. four 10 hour days)? Do you need more training? Do you need different processes? Do you need to reallocate resources (or lobby for more)? Do you need to make a decision that is unpopular but needs to be done? Do you need to force yourself to recharge so you can care for those who count on you?
4. What you do right now matters.
I believe that each of us is called to make the world a better place.
In movies, there is always a moment when the hero is challenged. She musters her courage. She grits her teeth and leans into her calling. Dramatic music plays over a montage of her struggles. Despite all odds, she wins. She lives happily ever after. The credits play.
Real life isn’t like that.
The moments that matter have less music and more poop (literal and figurative).
It would be nice if the moments when the world needs us most were conveniently timed, delightfully brief and heavily resourced.
Unfortunately, that is rarely how it works.
They are really hard. During these moments, though, our actions have a disproportionate impact on the world.
For most of the people reading this email, one of those moments is right now.
On behalf of those you serve—especially the most vulnerable—thank you for the sacrifices you make on behalf of others.
Empathy is the answer,