Thriving To End Homelessness
We Each Have Something To Do, And In Doing, We Help Ourselves As Much As Another.
On an average night in America, more than half a million men, women and children are homeless, either living on the streets or in some type of emergency shelter or transitional housing, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Yet, we can each do something to end the cycle of homelessness in a way that helps us as much as it helps others.
Across the country, hundreds of non-profit organizations are helping end the cycle of homelessness by providing not only a bed and basics, but also empowerment, enrichment and employment training so those who are homeless can reach their dreams of a better life.
Last week, Thrive Global was able to take a small step to help those who are helping to end homelessness by offering a one-day workshop to staff of one of those non profit organizations — The Lord’s Place in Palm Beach County, Florida. The Lord’s Place is a non-sectarian organization with a mission to break the cycle of homelessness by providing innovative, compassionate and effective services to men, women and children. Last year, 337 individuals were residents in the housing programs of The Lord’s Place, including 51 families comprising of 116 children and 63 adults. The organization focuses on highly vulnerable, at-risk populations with multiple barriers to employment.
Micro-changes in mind, body, heart, and soul create the big difference.
The one-day Thrive workshop took staff through four “pillars” of well-being — body, mind, heart and soul — and enabled each participant to identify micro-changes to create a more thriving life — at work and at home. Those micro-changes ranged from creating simple ways to connect with team members, taking time to meditate to connect with self, finding ways to improve exercise and nutrition, and creating simple workplace stretching routines every 30 minutes to overcome the negative effects of “sitting as the new smoking.”
For Val Santiago Stanley, Director of Women’s Services, the workshop provided her team with a necessary “time out” to experience simple ways to work and live in greater well-being, and in doing so, work and live better for those whom the organization helps. “It was an amazing day and for me life changing,” Val shares. For her team, who give tirelessly to help those they serve, the day provided much-needed reflection, ranging from an opportunity to, “gain a new perspective on how to view life and myself,” “to think about how important those things [pillars] are in our lives,” to “…always remember that taking care of me is my right,” and the power of “being open with being vulnerable.” Overwhelmingly, the opportunity to identify micro-changes — the small steps that affect big change — gave everyone the opportunity to take action for themselves and to be supported by their team. Shifting from “knowing” to “doing” the things that are most important to living and working with greater well-being is core to the Thrive workshop experience.
Our individual well-being increases when we give to others.
Like many non-profits, The Lord’s Place relies on volunteers throughout the community to help provide programs. Throughout the United States, the Corporation for National Community Service, reports that there are 62.6 million volunteers.
When we consider the positive impact of volunteering and giving on our own well-being, we understand why giving has been called a “miracle drug” for almost two decades. Research shows that acts of giving such as volunteering can provide the equivalent sense of well-being to that from a pay increase from $20,000 to $75,000. Studies show that individual well-being increases through giving to others. Harvard cardiologist, Herbert Benson, put it that, “…helping others is a door through which one can go to forget oneself and experience our natural hardwired physical sensation … the helper’s high is a classic example of nature’s built-in reward system for those who help others.” (The Giving Way to Happiness: Stories and Science Behind the Life-Changing Power of Giving, Jenny Santi, Penguin Random House, New York, 2015).
We are more the same than we are different.
When we extend ourselves to help others, we find that we are all more the same than we are different. Yet, circumstances have led us each to different places in our lives. Just like you and me, our homeless have faced challenges and struggles. Just like you and me, our homeless have dreams for their future and for the future of their families. Just like you and me, our homeless are trying to make each day better and continuing to have faith that with each day they will come closer to work and life that is filled with meaning, happiness, and a sense of thriving.
Who do we see when we see the faces amidst our homeless? We see faces of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers. We see high school students and grocery store workers. We see two year-olds and seventy-two year-olds. We see one in thirty who are children. We see the many women who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Sometimes, sadly, in our busyness rushing through each day, we don’t really see at all.
The cycle of homelessness continues not only as a result of lack of material resources and social and economic challenges, but also from diminished mental well-being. Studies show the enormous negative emotional impact on each of us from social isolation and exclusion. Think about the last time you felt alone and isolated and how much more difficult it was to get out of bed and get through your day. That feeling is often the daily “normal” for many who are experiencing homelessness.
Through compassion we can see the one small thing we can do to help.
When we pause to show compassion, rather than judgment, we see stories of good people who are suffering through bad times. They have lost jobs, returned from military service, retired without means of support, working low-wage jobs with inadequate income for housing, escaped domestic violence, abuse, and sexual exploitation, or have found themselves alone, isolated and unable to find a place to call “home” for so many other reasons. Each has a story that is cause for us to pause, feel grateful for all we have, and perhaps think of one small thing we can do to help.
On the home page of The Lord’s Place, the stories of some of those who have been able to break their cycle of homelessness are shared. You can also view that video here.
To explore the one small thing you can do to help, and in turn, experience a natural state of heightened well-being, perhaps you can start now with an Internet search on any cause that is important to you. Perhaps you already volunteer and you can share that experience with a friend or colleague to extend that sense of well-being to another.