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Peace House community: They aren’t just ‘The Homeless’

By Marti Malby “The Homeless,” a title that should only describe a person’s living situation, but often describes so much more.  On the one hand, being part of the homeless population automatically means sleep deprivation, instability, the daily challenge of finding what you need and so much more.  Unfortunately, that is only the objective side of homelessness, the things that can be observed and measured. There’s also a subjective side that can be even more destructive. Sociologists and others talk about “Labeling Theory” which states among other things that the label a society places on a group within society becomes a shorthand for and an oversimplification of everyone in that group. When someone becomes part of “The Homeless,” that person finds that society no longer sees them as an individual. Instead, they are now simply part of a mass with no identity of their own. Worse yet, because of American culture’s emphasis on individual responsibility and tendency to downplay individual circumstances, those who end up homeless for whatever reason also find themselves judged by society for their situation. Worst of all, because the majority of the homeless in the U.S. grew up here, they share this cultural outlook, blaming themselves for being homeless and forgetting who they are as individuals. Among all the other problems the homeless face, the emotional toll of being a nameless, faceless “homeless” is one of the worst. Even as I write this article, I know the current trend among social service providers is to talk about “those who are experiencing homeless” as a way of avoiding the dehumanization of slapping a label on an entire group. But even if I never applied the word homeless to any one individual, it would not change the dynamic of how our minds work. When most of us see a “homeless” person, that is all we see. As Labeling Theory applied to [...]

Peace House community: Nobody wants to feel like they’re nobody

Peace House community: Nobody wants to feel like they’re nobody

Photos by Mike Hazard By Mike Hazard David A. De Lampert Jr. has peace on his mind. “I do a lot to make sure in my soul I don’t let nobody steal my peace.” “We are so hard on each other. Nitpicking, always looking for what’s wrong and put someone down. People don’t know how to forgive.” “When they come here, I come here (to the Peace House), I want to see that smile, for just one moment. The roughest cat in the world sitting down there, to see him smile, or her, I want to see that peace on them. Because I know when we go back out there, we go into a jungle, into a world, something where none of us really knows what’s up the road.” Maybe you’ve seen David out and about? He’s been living on the streets of Minneapolis for over 30 years. A veteran, he survives on disability checks and through gratuities people offer him. He spends his days inviting people to sign his coat with a permanent marker. When they sign, they will often give him a dollar or two “to help me keep going.” “Personally, I feel this is the richest thing you got going for yourself, is your name,” David says. “And as we fight in this world to obtain something for ourselves and to be somebody, nobody wants to feel like they’re nobody no matter who it is, I encourage people to believe in my travels that we are somebody.” “Everybody is somebody. Irregardless of whether you are an addict, alcoholic, or whatever, whatever your vice is in life. I happen to believe personally you can be at peace with yourself.” David is one of the people profiled in John Nolter’s profound project, A Peace of My Mind. These statements of David’s are transcribed from John’s podcast. Like many, Julie Knopp has been moved by David, who is also known as Pops. “I consider Pops one of my greatest spiritual mentors,” she writes. [...]

Steps towards peace: So what should we talk about?

Steps towards peace: So what should we talk about?

By MARTI MALTBI Photo by Mike Hazard Each day that Peace House Community is open, we host a “meditation” for our guests, volunteers and community members. It isn’t meditation in the traditional sense; we focus on one topic and discuss it as a group to help us understand each other and develop a great respect for the people and world around us. The discussions last 20 to 35 minutes, and it is one of the hallmarks of our community. Sister Rose Tillemans founded PHC with the intention of giving a forum to marginalized women and men who were generally ignored by the larger society. She also wanted to promote relationships in a safe context, making individuals feel comfortable with exploring their own thoughts and feelings in a supportive setting. Having been at PHC for a little over a year now, I’ve come to respect Sister Rose’s wisdom in weaving a deliberate time of reflection and sharing into her vision. The discussions have opened my eyes (and I know from speaking with others that they have had the same experience) to people and situations that I would otherwise have completely overlooked. Among the topics we’ve covered in the last 15 months have been: • Tell us your name, why it was given to you and how you feel about it • What is the happiest song you have ever heard • What do people who have never been homeless need to know about being homeless • How prepared are you to survive a natural disaster Unfortunately, just reading these topics on the page doesn’t do them justice. As I typed them I realized how much they sound like the conversation starters you might find on tables at a corporate networking event. And yet, when you discuss topics like this day after day and become comfortable sharing yourself and accepting what others have to offer, the questions become something more than trite questions. When 20 or 30 people come to one of these questions together, the [...]