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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 [...]

Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update

The Wisdom of Powerlessness

Peace House Community”“A Place to Belong By MARTI MALTBY  I”™ve had a horrible time coming up with an idea for this month”™s column. I suppose that if that”™s the worst thing to happen to me, I must be having a good week, but it”™s still frustrating.  As I”™ve watched the Coronavirus pandemic unfold, I”™ve been struck by how hard it is for us to grasp the scope of what we are facing. This is, after all, a global pandemic on a scale we haven”™t seen in over a century. And yet, all over the world, everything from sports leagues to local schools are trying to keep to their normal schedules. Even at Peace House Community, I get asked every week when we will fully reopen. I answer that we don”™t know yet but are working on a plan, while inside I am thinking, “Are you insane?! Everyone on staff and all my volunteers are over 50 and most are in high risk categories. Can”™t you accept that Coronavirus is going to disrupt things for a long time?”  Part of the problem, I think, is that we”™ve become so used to controlling our surroundings through technology and innovation that we forget what we are dealing with. Mother Nature (or whatever term you want to use) is powerful, and sometimes we have to accept that we are not in control.  Paul, a geography major who I knew in university, summed things up well when he interrupted a conversation to say, completely out of the blue, “You know, I”™ve decided we just shouldn”™t build houses on flood plains, in tornado alleys, along earthquake zones or next to mountains that are likely to collapse in an avalanche. So many cities were just bad ideas.” A mountain climber who made it to the top of Mount Everest expressed it slightly differently: “Anyone who makes it to the summit knows they haven”™t really conquered the mountain. [...]

Groundhog Day

Peace House Community””A Place to Belong By MARTI MALTBY Back in May, when people had settled into the Covid-19 lockdown, a survey by OnePoll asked Americans how their sense of time was being affected by spending day after day in their homes. The results included: The average American got confused about what day it was five times every week.59% of respondents didn”™t even know what day it was when they took the survey.65% of those polled said they were struggling to stay motivated during self-isolation. When I heard the results, my mind immediately flashed back many months to a meditation discussion I led at PHC. I asked community members what parts of homelessness could never be explained but simply had to be experienced. Several people gave answers that almost exactly mirrored the survey results I just mentioned. Among other things, the community members said: “It”™s like Groundhog Day. Every day is just like the day before.”“You have to learn how to make yourself comfortable because you know what tomorrow is going to bring, and it”™s the same as today.”“It takes strength not to snap into depression. You've got to keep a positive mind.”“Being homeless over a period of time messes with your mind.” Another interesting parallel emerged when many of the survey respondents identified snacking as a method of coping with their isolation. As a summary of the survey commented, “Is food the key to this problem? Over one in three of those surveyed said they”™re using snacks as a motivating tool. In fact, 69% of those surveyed said they blew through their snack stockpile quicker than they planned.” People”™s snacking habits even produced the following quips about sheltering in place: I need to practice physical-distancing from the refrigerator.PSA (Public Service Announcement): Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they [...]

Steps towards peace: Peace via community

Steps towards peace: Peace via community

Marti Maltby By MARTI MALTBI Before I get to the point of this article, allow me to lay a little groundwork. Peace House Community has been open in the Phillips neighborhood since 1985. Our founder, Sister Rose Tillemans, established PHC at 510 E. Franklin Ave, and in 2013 we moved to our current building at 1816 Portland Ave. S. PHC is a community center (not a “drop-in center,” please) focusing on homeless and low income adults. As our full name indicates, Peace House Community is a community, a series of relationships and connections. The building is simply a tool for bringing people together. The focus of the day at PHC is what we call “Meditation,” although it is more of a group discussion. For 45 minutes a day, our community (community members, volunteers, guests and staff) discuss a question designed to help us understand and relate to each other. The questions can revolve around anything from community events to childhood experiences to the best meal you”'ve ever had. We sometimes get complaints from newcomers that we are misleading people by talking about “meditation” when our actual practice is very different from the usual practice of meditation. (We”'ve considered changing the label to something more accurate, but the community members have unanimously said they will ignore any change we try to make because the word is so integral to PHC”'s being!).  While I understand the complaint, I have come to realize that what we do is simply meditation on a grander scale. Meditation, practiced by an individual, focuses on expanding one”'s consciousness, becoming more self-aware, allowing one to “function” more effectively and so on. The meditation at PHC accomplishes these same things, but instead of relying on one”'s own insights from meditation, it allows community members to gain wisdom from others and self-awareness from examining their own responses to new [...]

Guri Nabad (Peace House) CHAT: Somali American Community

Guri Nabad (Peace House) CHAT: Somali American Community

Our Guri Nabad (meaning: Peace House) CHAT, part of the Somali American Community nonprofit organization, is comprised of community leaders and individuals whose families are impacted by incidences of childhood asthma. We address the causes of these chronic conditions and offer tools to assist our families in coping with and managing these conditions. Part of our effort helps to identify community resources that can help our families successfully address issues surrounding asthma in our Somali community. Many parents are ashamed, afraid or unwilling to address the issues surrounding their children”'s health conditions. This is especially true for parents with asthmatic children who fear that their children will be unable to participate in healthy physical activities. With language and cultural barriers that many people feel they have, they are less aware or less effective in reaching out to available resources and are sometimes afraid to ask for help. With our CHAT Team, we create a venue in which people can come together, speak about their health issues and together seek the resources most appropriate for addressing our children”'s asthma. Through our mosques, media, and personal word-of-mouth, we reach out to other families with similar conditions and situations. To date, we have conducted asthma management trainings and assisted 17 children and their families. Families attend 10 asthma management sessions which occur 1-2 times a month. Since asthma is something that affects the entire family even though it may be experience by just one person in the family, we believe it is very important for the entire family to become educated about asthma and to understand what it is, the triggers, how episodes can be prevented and generally how to live more comfortably with this disease. By working with the entire family, our efforts have reached and impacted many more people. (more…)

Backyard Initiative Citizen Health Action Teams: Creating Connections and Resources for Health

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center This update highlights the work of seven additional Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs) of fourteen total after summarizing the work of four more.  The other three will be summarize in the May issue. The Backyard is approximately one square mile area surrounding the Midtown Global Market and Allina Health Commons.  Residents of these seven neighborhoods in south Minneapolis have been supported by the Cultural Wellness Center to develop and implement their ideas for community health improvement since December of 2008. Allina has contributed funds for these projects, with additional support from Twin Cities LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation). Each CHAT is growing the community”'s capacity to increase residents”' knowledge and skills to take better care of themselves. (more…)