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Posts Tagged ‘Marti Maltby’

What’s in a Word?

What’s in a Word?

Peace House Community Journal Over the last few years, there has been a movement to stop using the word “homeless” to describe those who don’t have permanent housing. Phrases like “those with lived experience of homelessness” or “the unstably housed” have popped up to fill the void. Those advocating for the change intend to reduce the stigma attached to homelessness by highlighting the difference between the person on the one hand and the place where they sleep on the other. Although I like reducing the stigma around homelessness, I’m ambivalent about the words we use to talk about homelessness. Reducing stigma is great, but solving the problem rather than renaming it would be better. I’d rather see more focus on providing housing than on vocabulary. But having said that, the stigma that arises from the belief that homelessness results from bad choices and irresponsibility makes it more difficult to generate support for efforts to end homelessness. As long as someone believes that a person becomes homeless through their own actions, they are unlikely to provide any support to ending homelessness. The phrases that are proposed to replace “the homeless” at least try to expand our view of this population. Someone may not have a home now, but that situation doesn’t have to be permanent, and it doesn't define that individual. Someone may be on the brink of homelessness because of a lost job, an injury, a mental illness, reckless behavior, or something else beyond their control, and may need to stay with friends or family for a time. Yes, bad decisions may have led to unstable housing, but on the other hand, they may be navigating a difficult period in the most responsible way possible. When I asked some of the community members at Peace House Community how they felt about the new phrases, I expected them to share my view, but I was wrong. They weren’t put off by the phrases, but they also didn’t mind being called [...]

Working Instead of Staying Busy

Working Instead of Staying Busy

Peace House Community Journal By MARTI MALTBY Someone recently sent me an article that, among other things, lamented the busyness that people experience at their jobs and the amount of time and energy that this busyness wastes. The author’s goal was to get his readers to move from busyness to action, from working a job that may or may not pay the bills to finding ways to deal with weightier societal issues like the breakup of the republic, the mass extinction of many of earth’s animals, war, disease, famine … the list goes on. The author pointed out that many people discovered during the pandemic that their jobs involved far more busyness than accomplishment. From picking out appropriate work clothes to sitting in traffic to finding a parking space, workers found that they could accomplish just as much by staying home as they could by going to work. And all that time was saved before they even started working. Once they added on the time saved by avoiding interruptions by coworkers and other workplace inconveniences, they had to come to terms with how much of their lives had been wasted with activity that produced nothing. The article went on to examine how this realization may have influenced many people to resign their jobs to find something more fulfilling. At least, I think that’s what it might have said. I stopped reading because my mind had wandered off in a different direction. I had begun thinking about my past jobs at agencies that “served” the homeless, and how many times our clients told my co-workers and I that we were “only in it for the money”. Since none of us expected to make millions working in social services, we often got offended (or at least amused) by these comments. But our clients had a point. We were getting paid a reasonable wage (complete with health insurance, PTO, and other benefits) to fill out forms, attend meetings, make phone calls, and anything else that would get our clients into housing. But [...]

The Trouble with Normal

The Trouble with Normal

Peace House Community Journal By Marti Maltby A friend of mine who struggles with addiction recently told me about a hiking trip he took with a group of acquaintances. He didn’t know anyone in the group very well, but he knew them well enough to talk with them throughout the day, and he enjoyed his time with them. I was surprised when he told me that later on he had suffered a severe bout of depression because of the hike. “I feel like I lied to them. I tricked them,” he explained. It turned out that as part of his recovery from addiction, he tries to be completely honest with others, not living a double life as he did when he was actively using drugs. Understandably, he hadn’t used the hike as an opportunity to tell the group about his addiction, and he was worried that they thought he was “normal.” He felt like he had pretended not to have any problems, when from his perspective he was an addict who was totally messed up, despite the time he had been able to spend away from drugs. I admire my friend’s commitment to his recovery, and to being honest, but I didn’t think he did anything wrong by not revealing the worst parts of his life to the group. When I asked him what was so bad about not telling them about his addictions, he replied that everyone in the group was normal, and that they had accepted him as being the same as them. I needed a minute or two to organize my thoughts before I could give him a reasonably coherent answer, because my mind was going in two separate directions. My first thought was that he wasn’t under any obligation to tell others about his personal struggles. His struggles are his, and he can tell others if he wants to, but he shouldn’t feel compelled to tell everyone he knows about everything in his past. My second thought was that he was probably wrong about everyone in the group being normal. Or, maybe more accurately, that it’s normal to have problems you hide from others. I’ve met many [...]

A Penguin Walks Through the Door …

A Penguin Walks Through the Door …

Peace House Community journal by Marti Maltby A few years ago I came across a list of questions employers could ask potential employees to test their creativity and their ability to adjust quickly to unexpected circumstances. My favorite question was “A penguin walks through the door wearing a sombrero. What’s the first thing it says?” I actually used this during a few interviews, and I got to see a wonderful array of responses. One man broke into laughter at the ridiculous nature of the question. That turned out to be a benefit to him, as he had been nervous up to that point in the interview. The question helped him relax, and he showed a friendly demeanor from that point on. Another applicant responded immediately, “I don’t know. I don’t speak penguin”, and then waited for the next question. I learned that he wasn’t easily thrown off by unexpected developments and could think quickly when needed. Someone else told me the penguin would say “I’ve got the chips. Who’s got the salsa and guacamole?” Another job applicant answered, “I think I’m lost. Which was is Tijuana?” In each case, I learned something about the applicant that I could never get by asking about their job history, or how they would handle a conflict with a co-worker. To be honest, I felt foolish the first time I asked the question, thinking the person would decide I wasn’t the sort of boss they wanted to work for. No one reacted that way though. In almost every case, it brought out a side of them that was fun to see. It changed the interview from a stressful, challenging situation to an enjoyable discussion where the applicant could be as playful or thoughtful as they wanted. I say “in almost every case” because there were one or two people who died when I asked the question. While there was no right answer, and therefore no wrong answer, there were bad answers. One applicant gave me an overwhelmed look and couldn’t think of anything to [...]

You May Know More Than You Know

You May Know More Than You Know

Peace House Community Journal by Marti Maltby I’ve learned a few things in the last year about fundraising, like, “You can never say thank-you enough,” and, “Tell donors what you are doing with their money, because it isn’t your money that you are spending.” I’ve also learned that I need to ask Peace House Community’s donors a lot of questions, like, “How did you hear about us? Why did you decide to support us?”, and, “Do you want to receive our newsletters?” Saying thank-you seems pretty self-explanatory, but it took me longer to wrap my head around the asking of questions. I know that most people receive more emails than they want, so getting another message from me seemed like it would be more of an inconvenience than a blessing. However, I’ve come to understand that our donors know how Peace House Community looks from the outside looking in, and the best way I can show them that I recognize their expertise is to ask them for it. In this case, asking is important because the donors often don’t realize how valuable their insights are to me. They know things that I need to know, but they don’t know that they know the things I need to know. (My high school English teacher would deride me for that last sentence.) It happens all the time. We are each a wealth of knowledge, but the challenge is to figure out who needs to know what we know. Sometimes at Peace House Community we ask our members and volunteers to share random knowledge just to see what we can learn. The last time we tried this we found out that: If you can’t get a jar open, wrapping a rubber band around the cap gives you a better gripLip balm works better on dry, cracked feet than most moisturizing creamIf you don’t have a stand for your cell phone, you can cut a slot in the bottom of a Styrofoam cup and use that. Of course, nothing on that list is an earth-shattering revelation, but it makes the point that we all face challenges, both big and [...]

Letter to the Editor April ’22

Two Reactions to Articles in the March 2022 Issue: For Marti Maltby: Please stop perpetuating the myth that panhandling and homelessness are the same thing. As a block leader who has tried unsuccessfully for years on behalf of my block club to get some kind of regulation of panhandlers, I have been told by neighbors that they could actually identify a house where the panhandlers lived at one point. These are the people I encounter at literally every street corner and, in my neighborhood, all up and down the 35W entrance and exit ramps. And yes, as I have also been told by neighbors, every one of them was high on something when the neighbor attempted to speak to them. They and their friends leave their needles and other paraphernalia for little children to find or step on, creating a public health problem. And when one of my neighbors asked a panhandler to please not panhandle on the sidewalk surrounding his corner lot, he was rewarded with a brick through his truck window. Both members of my block club have now sold their homes and moved away, citing panhandlers as a primary reason. If you live in an area of the city where panhandlers hang out it is a problem for all sorts of reasons. But please, don't equate a panhandler with a homeless person. They are not the same thing. For Melanie Majors: You are absolutely right. The last city council ignored residents and simply pursued their own unrealistic goals for their own political gain. We have a small window of opportunity to perhaps start things in a new direction with the new city council, depending on how responsive they are, and also, whether or not residents are willing to get involved. The previous city council was perfectly happy not to have any input from residents who were understandably discouraged that they received absolutely no response to phone calls or emails. It meant that they could just do whatever they wanted. I can't tell you how many Minneapolis residents I have talked to in the last year [...]

Peace House Community: The Greatest Sacrifice

Peace House Community: The Greatest Sacrifice

By MARTI MALTBY Never having been in the armed forces, I don’t have personal experience with the idea of leaving no one behind on the battlefield, even if rescuing them requires great personal risk. I understand it in concept, but I’ve never had to live it out. Only recently did I realize that I get to see others live it out every day that I come to Peace House Community. Many of our community members make decisions that confound anyone from a middle class background. They decline housing opportunities, or move into housing and then get kicked out for inviting all their friends from the street to stay with them. They get into fights with their best friends and the next day act like nothing happened. They buy, sell and barter items from each other in a system that often looks like a giant commune. Most confusing of all, they stick with friends who they know are dragging them down. I hear so many questions that start with “Why don’t they …”, as if people who have never lived on the streets know what the community members should do. The questions are usually well-meaning, but they say more about the questioner’s ignorance than about the best way to escape the streets. Knowing how to live on a moderate income in a reasonably safe neighborhood doesn’t mean much to someone with almost no income who faces predators, dealers and pimps every day. The answer to “Why don’t they …” usually comes down to friendship, or at least community. Those who have little are forced to rely more on others than those who have enough to take care of themselves. When they are at their neediest, they are more likely to get help from people who understand their position than from others who have an excess but who don’t grasp the seriousness of the situation. Paradoxically, PHC’s community members often get their protection and security from the same streets that threaten them. By establishing and maintaining their friendships, the community provides for [...]

Peace Housing Community: Standing Still

Peace Housing Community: Standing Still

By MARTI MALTBY I spent last week visiting my parents in Jasper, a small town in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It was the first time since my 11 year old twins were born that I have been away from them for more than two days consecutively. It was also the first time in over 20 years that I spent time with my parents without other family around. My time with them reminded me of some of life’s simple truths. Marti with his parents, Margaret and Roger I visited them because my dad has been declining for several years, both physically and mentally. I wanted to see how he was doing for myself, and to let the rest of my family know what I saw. The experience was bittersweet, as I got to spend more quality time with my parents than I have in all of the last two decades, while at the same time realizing I will probably never get to have another good in person conversation with my dad. He will simply be too far gone by the time we get together again. One of the joys of the trip was that we had no plans for what we wanted to do. We were content to sit around together if we wanted, or go for a drive, or watch a television show together, or … whatever. In the midst of a pandemic and facing the coming winter in a job where I watch homeless and marginalized adults try to keep it together in the face of horrible circumstances, my time with my parents helped me refocus. When we face crisis, we often fall back on the old rallying cry, “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” During the pandemic, almost everyone had ideas of what we should do. It was a time for action, we thought. But as a wise friend once told me, sometimes it is better to yell, “Don’t just do something! Stand there!” Sometimes it is better to take time to appreciate what is still working, to enjoy the moment with those around us, and to gather ourselves for what lies ahead. The problems will still be there, and sometimes they will have gotten worse while we were resting, but we will [...]

Looking Forward

Peace House Community”“A Place to Belong  By MARTI MALTBY  A recent email from HousingLink, a local nonprofit that works on low income housing issues, contained links to news articles with depressing titles like:  ● “Elderly and homeless: America”™s next housing crisis”  ● “New report shows Minnesota LGBTQ teens and adults overrepresented in homeless population”  ● “Homeless and facing winter in Minneapolis”  ● “Homeless families struggle with impossible choices as school closures continue”  ● “Homeless advocates blame Minneapolis”™ continued lack of affordable housing for ”˜Wall of Forgotten Natives”™ resurgence”  ● “Neighbors object to Ramsey County plan to convert St. Paul hospital into a homeless shelter”  While I try to find positive things to pass on to others, especially during this convergence or homelessness, covid, increasing mental health challenges, and an impending end to the eviction moratorium (a news story that didn”™t even make HousingLink”™s email), at some point I need to face the fact that life sucks for a lot of people, and it is about to get worse. Some of you reading this know this far better than me because the headlines are speaking about you, or about your friends and neighbors.  The United States has had a homeless crisis since at least the 1980s. By itself, homelessness is bad enough. It robs people of their identities, destroying physical and emotional health, removing security and flaunting the nation”™s wealth in their faces. Combined with Covid, it is catastrophic.  Of course, Covid and homelessness are not the only issues out there. Sex trafficking, racism, and any number of other issues have put Americans in perilous positions for decades or longer. Solving these [...]

Keep Calm

Keep Calm

Peace House Community ”“ A Place to Belong  BY MARTI MALTBY  American society seems to have become a lot less civil over the years. I know bullies and those who overreact to perceived slights have always existed, but it seems as though people now think it is their patriotic duty to accuse others of committing a moral wrong every time they hear something that offends them. These days conversations and social media aren”™t used to establish mutual understanding as much as to tell other people why they are wrong.  In some ways I can understand why this is happening now. Between the pandemic, economic collapse, social unrest, and the loss of routine and certainty, we should expect that people will be on edge. Emotions are running high, and people will react more strongly than usual to things that upset them. But on the other hand, panic never made anything better. (You can put that on a t-shirt if you think it will help anyone around you.) The middle of a crisis is when we most need calm, level-headed words and actions. Assuming the worst about others when things are already at their worst just adds to the problems.  Minnesota history provides us with a wonderful example of dealing with crisis. On September 1, 1894, an inferno raced across Minnesota from south of Hinkley almost to Duluth. Depending on which account you believe, the fire destroyed over 200,000 acres in anywhere from six days to less than a day. (To put that in perspective, the Carr Fire that devastated northern California a few years ago took over a month to destroy a similar swath of land.) Because the Hinckley Fire moved so fast, the only ways to escape it were to find a body of water to hide in or to board a train. John Wesley Blair was the porter on a train that left Hinkley just ahead of the fire. While many of the people on the train were in hysterics, he moved calmly among the passengers, providing water and reassuring them. Eventually the [...]

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