Lauren Campbell, Decade to Doorways Administrator
This past week I was able to attend the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference and Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C. It was an incredible conference, packed with great speakers that addressed crucial topics. I felt privileged to have been able to attend and bring back the knowledge to assist our community in bringing an end to homelessness!
While I was particularly fond of the food choices in D.C., I have to say that the most enriching experience during my time there was my visit on Capitol Hill. It was pretty fascinating, albeit slightly daunting, seeing the inner workings of the buildings on Capitol Hill. The buildings you enter are pristine and primarily marble. There is a strict security process and stoic guards (who will not laugh at your jokes, so don’t try). Each person that passes by you seems more important than the last. And even though we dressed the part (which basically means heavy, layered, stifling clothing – not fit for the 95 degree weather we traversed in), there remains a nagging feeling in your stomach that says, “You don’t belong here.”
But today, I wasn’t here to be a wallflower. I wasn’t here to be a silent bystander. And when finally arriving in front of the office of my legislator, I had the timely realization that, I absolutely belong here. This is my country, and if I am unhappy with the implications that this government would have on those in need in my neighborhood, I don’t have to say anything, I get to. What a privilege.
The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t there to speak for me. Being motivated by assisting others – this helps me. I often pray to be given the words that would sustain the weary, and today was no different. Today I’m speaking for approximately 1,200 people who were homeless and received services last year and potentially thousands more at risk of homelessness in my County. I’m speaking for the individual that may never get the chance to set foot in this building – because they’re working three jobs to pay for the rent, their kid’s child care, and a van to fit the new baby on the way. The individual who is forced to choose between paying for housing and paying for medication to treat their depression. The individual whose husband left them alone with three kids and no car. That’s the person I’m here for. And on Wednesday afternoon at 3:05 pm while I waited for the visit with my legislator, I imagined them.
At that point, it didn’t matter if I said all the right words. It mattered that I showed up and I spoke up – because there are so many that can’t.
We’re in a time where actions matter. We must be vocal about the impacts that funding cuts would have on those who are most in need in our neighborhood. Perhaps you can’t show up, but call, write, text, tweet. Find a way to say what needs to be said to protect the most vulnerable in our County.