This time of year, I reflect on how far we have come, what we have learned, where we are going and what is the underlying theme running through it all.
The Creating Housing Coalition started holding meetings as an informal group in 2018 and became a non-profit in 2019. We had a short time of excitement and rushed into 2020 with high hopes, only to be stopped in our tracks with the Covid 19 shutdown. Like everyone else, we slowly came back out of our shells and became masters of zoom meetings, outdoor meetings and now hybrid meetings. We put fundraising on hold, then came back this year to resounding success, ready to benefit from the federal, state and local attention on the issue we were working so diligently to address. We got better at sharing our story, inspiring ourselves and others along the way. In the past year we reached out into the nooks and crannies of our community to give aid, shelter and medical attention to our most vulnerable and trained a peer support specialist to be our hand of comfort and bridge of hope. We found housing for close to a dozen people, and built trust and respect from those at the bottom and the top. Just this month, we finalized the purchase of the property after a year of work on an environmental review spearheaded by City of Albany employees.
We found help everywhere, support everywhere, and good will abundant. We learned that technology was our greatest tool and our biggest stumbling block. We learned that those with depth of knowledge and experience are more valuable than anyone truly appreciates. We learned that so many folks out on the fringes are there because they don’t have the social support needed to survive. When the access to human contact became scarce, people frayed and broke. We all felt it in various ways. We all suffered a little or a lot and realized how much we need each other, how much community matters.
We all want to be safe, loved, and useful. The pandemic strengthened people’s understanding of our mission by offering a taste of the isolation that folks on the fringe feel so intensely. The hardest thing to experience in a family is being the odd one out. To be alone in a crowd. To be shunned or isolated from understanding, acceptance, and compassion. To feel like too much of a burden to be cared for or to care about yourself. To be worth so little that no one even knows you exist. These are the folks that sit down at community meals, recycle our used beer and soda containers, and trudge the streets of town with everything they own strapped to their backs – every day, every year, rain or shine, cold or heat. Sometimes they get together with others for a while, desperate for love, acceptance, or to feel needed. Right now, I am humbled that with 1.38 acres of land, CHC can offer that community of safety, support, opportunity, and dignity. A community where they are not alone, not shunned, not feared, but embraced, and their dignity restored by having their own toilet, shower, bedroom and responsibility. May we all be so blessed.
Stacey Bartholomew, President, Creating Housing Coalition