Today, we spoke with many inspirational and trailblazing people from various nonprofits: NSO (Neighborhood Service Organization), Avalon Village, and the Heidelberg Project. James Carrie, who works at NSO’s homeless drop-in center, shared his vision for the people who come into the shelter. James does not want to manage homelessness, he wants to end homelessness. When discussing how to bring about change in a community, he told us to “to create edifying disturbances and to use full force advocacy to fight for change.”
Our next stop was the Bell Building, which is a permanent supportive housing for people transitioning out of homelessness run by NSO. We took a tour, made lunch for the residents, and played bingo with the residents. I, Rachel, found my new career path as a professional bingo caller. The residents had so much fun playing bingo and winning prizes. We also enjoyed getting to know them and hearing their stories.
At Avalon Village, we met Mama Shu. She was featured on Ellen for her work on Avalon Street and after being in her presence for five minutes we easily understood why. She put down everything she was doing to talk to us. After her son was killed in a hit and run car accident, she was motivated to buy a dilapidated home on Avalon Street that she had always been eyeing. Since then, her work in renovating the street has turned into the Avalon Village Project. The most poignant thing she told us was that she already had the worst thing in the world happen to her (the loss of her two-year-old son), so what could the world deal her that she could not handle? She basically said, “bring it on world!”. She encouraged us to fight for our dreams and not to let people or obstacles get in the way of pursuing our passions. She also spoke about the concept of serving others through small acts and in any way that meets a need.
We also visited the Heidelberg Project, which is a collection of abstract art pieces that spans around 3 blocks. The man who started the Heidelberg Project, Tyree Guyton, mentioned to the group that reality for any one person is different and that reality could be whatever we wanted to make it.
Back at the Hostel, we are learning about communal living, taking under five-minute showers, cooking dinner for the team, and washing dishes. In our debrief tonight, we began a discussion about ethics as we reflected on the individuals we met and their obligations to their communities. We discussed basic human rights and our connection to one another because of the common bond of humanity.