I work at an urban farm called Seattle Youth Garden Works. It’s an organization that runs an organic practicing farm and hires homeless and underserved youth. My boss starts every day with yoga and then splits the crew into groups for harvest, farm work and cooking. They’re all therapeutic to me. I’ve made so many wonderful friends this summer just by working side by side with people and hearing their stories, especially the hard ones. The people I’ve met have come across the country hopping freight trains, survived Seattle Public Schools, been through the justice system system and lived without houses to sleep in.
I’ve been learning throughout my life as a student about the prisonization of schools and In my life and about how people on the streets are treated. Every day I see how people mistrust the homeless community or disregard people because they look different and ask for help with cardboard signs. I was reminded of my job when a woman named LJ came to one of our Peace Studies classes and told us about her work. She does homeless youth outreach in East Oakland with an organization called At the Crossroads. Four nights a week they go out, supplying people with food, condoms, socks, cooking kits and friends to talk to. They also run counseling and outreach to youth 14-29 years old and stick with clients until their mid 30’s.
LJ told us about a man she’s met who said no one had asked him how he was doing for 3 months. The more I think about the way our fellow humans are being treated every day, the more grateful I am for the people that ask me “How are you doing?” If it weren’t for those simple conversations I wouldn’t have gotten to hear the stories of my co-workers and I wouldn’t be able to really know them and love them. Friends and people to talk to are essential parts of human life and it fills my heart to see people going out to support each other, hear each other’s stories and ask them if they need help or if they need a friend. Everyone has a story and makes rational decisions based on their situation. At the Crossroads provides judgement-free counseling to respect the lives and stories of people who want support. And anyone can help anyone just by listening to someone with a smile and without judgement. I’m glad it’s happening where I’ve been and where I live.
Walking into my peace studies class, bright and early on Monday morning, I thought it was going to be a typical class, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. My class got the opportunity to meet Lauren Johnson, an outreach counselor from At The Crossroads.
The mission of At The Crossroads is to reach out to homeless youth and young adults in San Francisco. Lauren’s job consists of one-on-one counseling with clients, collaborating with other outreach programs if it's needed for the clients, and nighttime street outreach. Four nights a week, Lauren and one of her co-workers walk the streets of the Mission and downtown San Francisco bringing help to their clients so they don’t have to go to them. They provide their clients with warm clothes, food, candy, condoms and safer drug supplies. At The Crossroads emphasizes meeting their clients where they are and not pushing them into anything they aren’t ready for emotionally and physically. The only person that is going to make that person change is himself or herself.
Learning about At the Crossroads shed a new light on the issue of homelessness and what some alternative solutions to this issue are. Lauren was a great closer for the peace studies trip!