Last week I had a chance to hear Sean Kirst, the longtime Syracuse columnist and author of the wildly popular The Soul of Central New York. He spoke about Syracuse, his book, community and everything in between. A powerful speaker, Sean left me thankful to be a part of this community. But during his talk, almost in passing, Sean said one thing in particular that stuck with me. Sean found that children in the inner city refer to the place where they sleep as the place that they “stay.” Not “live” but “stay.”
I’ve found this same trend with individuals facing homelessness. My first question to someone facing homelessness I have not seen in some time is, “Where have you been staying?” The implications of that question are profound. I don’t ask where they live. I ask where they stay. I ask because I know the answer is going to be different from day to day. Could be at shelter. Under a bridge. In an abandoned home. On a friends couch. At the emergency room. In jail. The bus station lobby. An ATM alcove…
In contrast, it would sound silly if I was to ask a 25 year home owner, “Hey, where have you been staying these days?” “Uhh, in my house?” There would be no question. And the advantages that come with that certainty, with that permanency, are invaluable.
· You’ve got an address so you can get mail and apply for work.
· You’ve got a shower to stay clean and healthy.
· You’ve got your own bed to support sound sleep.
· You’ve got a medicine cabinet to store your medication.
· You’ve got a place that when you come home in the evening, you know all of your belongings will be right where you left them.
Imagine if you did not have just one of those. Imagine how hard it would be to keep it all together. Imagine holding down a job if you didn’t have access to a regular shower. Or paying bills if you had no desk to organize them. Or staying healthy if you had no safe place to store your medication. A lot comes with stability. But for individuals facing homelessness, that stability simply does not exist. They “stay” in places and don’t “live” in places.
I guess that is what we are trying to do at A Tiny Home for Good. Foster permanency. Offer stability. Provide a home. I hope that our residents are now asked, “Hey, where do you live?” There is power in that question.