A Message from Eli Poor
Exciting things have been happening with our Unsheltered Voices Listening Project! Unsheltered Voices is U2C3’s social justice project funded by the UU Fund for Social Responsibility that seeks to move beyond “need-based” relationships (e.g., just providing clothing, food, etc.) to authentic, reciprocal relationships with our neighbors on the streets. While the community does have many needs, focusing on these exclusively ultimately perpetuates “one-way” relationships in which one group is the “benevolent giver” and the other is the “needy recipient”, which only further disempowers and marginalizes. Unsheltered Voices is working on a series of surveys using Asset-Based Community Development principles (a relationship-based community development process) which identify strengths, gifts, and capabilities of unsheltered neighbors, eventually leading to the establishment of teams that work with the strengths (or “Assets”) of the community for the benefit of the community as a whole.
U2C3’s work through Unsheltered Voices is well into the survey process, and two main teams have emerged from this work: one team is focused on relationships within the community, and one is focused on strengthening relationships with the wider Corpus Christi community. The team focused on relationships within the community are working on establishing group norms, and… wait for it…. are in the process of developing a Covenant for the group! This group is also putting together a BBQ plate fundraiser to support Homeless Helping Homeless, the unsheltered-led group that has emerged from this work, and is holding a monthly community-wide birthday party to celebrate the birthdays of community members at the end of each month. The team working on relationships with the wider community is participating in a beach cleanup at Cole Park this Saturday, and a plan is emerging to reach out to and build relationships with neighbors close to Mother Teresa’s Day shelter who are continually reaching out to the city with complaints about the unsheltered community, seeking to show kindness and understanding and a willingness to address the neighbors’ concerns through conversation. Relationships are also being built with the many providers of homeless services, who now have connections and feedback from the community that they serve.
If you are interested in supporting Unsheltered Voices, there are many opportunities to help, either through “need-based” volunteerism, e.g., providing items that the community needs, or through more “accompaniment” based ways, like assisting with surveys, or getting to know the people in the community by coming out to the camps.
Thank you to all who have given their time and have made donations to our community, particularly those who have provided warm clothing and blankets during our recent cold weather and to Beverly Thomas, who has assisted with the survey process.
Our Unitarian Universalist principles encourage us to “affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people”, and to recognize the “interdependent web of which we all are a part”. Our unsheltered neighbors are a part of our community, and as we support and build relationships with them, it not only enriches their lives, it changes ours.
Community Ministry Intern
Unsheltered Voices Listening Project