|Posted on 9/23/2008 8:35:50 AM|
Author: BJ Heckner
Several months ago I wrote a blog about my position and work as a front desk coordinator at the Center for the Homeless. Now I write as an Adult Services Coach, a role I entered just a few weeks ago and one in which I feel I'm learning more every day. As a coach, I have the privilege of talking with our guests and guiding them down paths they may have never taken before. The difficulty in this is the slight, sometimes stubborn resilience to change. None of us really like change all that much; it usually means a break in our routine, a different way of thinking, and sometimes a breaking of relationship or community. While many guests whom I coach paint a picture of a tight rope budget that snapped under too much economic pressure, resulting in the falling into the net of social organizations like the Center, many also come from broken relationships, debilitating addictions, medical complications and mental illness. It is all too easy for someone who has lost everything to simply give up, to not even try at putting themselves back together. Indeed, some do. It takes a lot of courage for someone to come through the Center's doors looking for assistance. They have admitted to themselves that they need help and recognize that someone beyond themselves may just be able to lend a hand. That hand, however, is by no means a ski lift where one can just hop on and be taken to the top. As an Adult Services Coach, I do not manage peoples' lives, providing them with everything they need by taking over their lives and forcefully setting them on the right path. Iam not a remote control operator. My role, then, is to guide,encourage,correct when necessary, provide information on the best services our guests can utilize,and always - always - to give a profound respect to the person sitting in front of me.
If I could sum up my job in one word, it would be Dignity. The importance of dignity in the work we do at the Center cannot be emphasized enough, for it is the root of our continued existence as a humanity that has mutual respect. No one, for whatever reason, is ever excluded from the dignity that is inherent in their very being. Our country was founded on this recognition that "all people are created equal, that they are endowed...with certain unalienable rights..." (U.S. Declaration of Independence). The core of my work with our guests is to show them they are indeed within humanity's realm of dignity, and that their lives should reflect that dignity by how they treat themselves and those around them, which conversely effects how they are treated by others.
On a practical level it's difficult telling a guest that the plan they have set out for themselves really isn't the best option for them, strongly suggesting an alternative route which may not provide the relief they want but addresses the issue with intention and self-awareness. For many of our guests, suspending the job search to enter our Starting Over, Stepping Higher (SOSH) program does not make much sense. They are not making money, so they are not being productive, thus not moving up in the world. What they eventually find from entering this intensive program is that they really do take a closer look at themselves and are aware that they took the time to analyze their very selves instead of going back to the routine they're used to. As a new coach I have yet to see the "before and after" change our guests go through when they enter and then graduate from the program. But the choices our guests make when they do go through the program are better-informed and not as reactionary as when they first came to the center. And whatever program track they are on at the center, when a guest smiles because they realize they are making genuine progress, that they are changing for the better, my job is all the more satisfying.