By Colleen Sinsky
I was remembering back to one of my first days at JOIN, while I was tagging along with Quinn, one of our outreach workers. We were stopping in to visit one of the guys Quinn had housed recently. Now, the vast majority of our folks are some of the most wonderful, friendly and sweet people I’ve had the privilege of meeting. Working with them is a joy, and I love spending time and talking with almost everyone. This guy though, was not a joy. His apartment was a minefield of empty Steel Reserves, and our friend was cranky, belligerent, and dismissive of the food box we had brought. The brief visit felt like it bordered on hostility towards us and I was relieved to escape into the fresh air.
Walking back to the car, I asked Quinn something along the lines of “How do you work with that guy? He’s such an ungrateful jerk!” And Quinn’s simple answer has stuck with me, and reminds me that we aren’t doing this work for our own gratification. “Even jerks deserve housing.”
So we house jerks and saints and everyone in between. Even in the most hardened, long-time homeless alcoholics I’ve seen incredible moments of human vulnerability and warmth, and we keep plodding along every day beside them because we all deserve housing.
Tomorrow is also the beginning of our 30th annual Portland Plunge, where 25 high school students from the Portland and surrounding areas will come for a week of immersion into the world of homelessness. I’m going to be one of five small group leaders on the Plunge and am feeling both excited and nervous about spending the next week away from my home and my usual job at JOIN. When I return, next week’s blog post will be about our experience on the Plunge. Stay tuned!