I often think about what I’m bringing back from my DukeEngage experience. I have previously delved into the idea of reciprocity, and that the most valuable aspect of my time at Larkin Street Youth Services are the relationships created with clients and staff members. Those relationships affected me directly, but I wanted to share these meaningful connections with others. I know that my perspective on homelessness has been forever altered, but how do I attempt to begin sharing this shifted viewpoint with my friends and family?
I know that the way to effect change is not by chronicling the tales of my summer engagement program, but through actions that reflect them. And I’ve come up with about three different scenarios that I hope will help share what I’ve learned without (hopefully) making me look like a self-absorbed fart with a superiority complex.
- Insensitive Comments/Jokes
Past me has made some insensitive jokes that would make current me incredibly upset. I know these jokes come from a place of ignorance, but not an unwillingness to understand. If explained tactfully, not angrily or from a place of offense, changes can begin to be made on the way we view people experiencing homelessness.
I often passed by several people on the streets in Durham and was unsure of how to act. Since working at Larkin Street, I’ve learned that there is always a level of discomfort when interacting with a new person, but the discomfort must be set aside to make a valuable connection. Just a smile or an offer of some snacks does miles of difference. It forces you to register that homelessness is a nationwide issue. Ignorance will do nothing.
An article released by the Herald Sun revealed that Durham has a surprisingly high population of people experiencing homelessness, with about 1200 people passing through shelters and transitional housing in the past year. At Duke we often discuss the world around us and our place in it, but I feel that we fall short at discussing the community directly outside our campus, or even inside. Some students have experienced unstable housing and homelessness. Bringing attention to these issues, especially in a school where the median income is 186K, according to a recent article published by the New York Times, is paramount. Discussions of the world around us and its issues us cannot continue if we fail to recognize problems within our own community.
These have been my thoughts on carrying my experiences with DukeEngage past San Francisco, and beyond this summer. I hope that it continues to challenge me to think critically about my place in each community I inhabit, and that these conversations will begin to be had at Duke.