Carlos Celebrates 5 Years with Gubbio!
Our newest employee, Amanda Smith, asks our senior employee, Carlos Avila, a couple of questions about his consistent and compassionate service at Gubbio.
What have been some highlights with Gubbio?
The thing I love most about the project in the last five years is the extension of hours that happened earlier this year. Also, I really like to see the improvements that have been made in the services we offer, even if it seems like something little, such as having foot spray available. Another thing I really like is how the church looks beautiful for everyone, even from the outside, and that the guests help keep it clean, too.
Why have you stayed?
I stay for the people who are able to take me out of the present. A lot of my job entails cleaning up or saying things like 'Eat outside, please,' but when I am able to talk with guests and try to understand their days, my mind is able to go beyond just being a monitor and into a place where I am able to see the humanity.
Do you have any special stories?
One woman sticks out. We talked regularly about life and things she had been through. When she was young, her brother had sold her to his friends to do sexual things. Then, when she was a bit older, she fell and broke her leg in many places and it took two years in a cast to heal fully. Along with those stories, she would tell me about her life on the streets, including one when she was peed on during the night by a passer-byer. It's people and stories like those that really make me realize that anything I've been through in life is just a lake compared to her bigger-than-the-ocean experiences. I let myself complain sometimes, but I also make sure I keep things in perspective.
Any other comments?
I have wonderful co-workers. I love that if there's a difference in opinion that it's open to discussion and everything gets sorted out fairly.
"The Homeless are Not Fungible"- From the Director
There was a short article yesterday in a local newspaper on the explosion that took place half a block from the Gubbio Project last Friday. The paper was reporting that a 55 year old homeless person was injured by a device in a trash can at the corner when he was rummaging through it. Accuracy of the story aside, I write about this short piece because of the outrageous photo that accompanied the article - a dumpster in an alley at night. You can see the story here
To be clear, the explosion happened at 1:30 in the afternoon (not at night) on a busy and open street corner (not an alley) in a small corner trashcan (not a dumpster). What concerns me, besides the inaccuracy of the photo to the story, is that the editor must have thought that they were somehow related. Is that the image that sums up for the editor (or for us) the word 'homeless' and is that what allowed the editor to put a photo that had nothing to do with the story alongside it?
When I told a friend about the photo and the article, he exclaimed, "The homeless are not fungible." I confess to not knowing what this word meant. He explained that the term is used in economics (no wonder I didn't know it) and is a property of goods or commodities meaning "able to replace or be replaced by another identical item; mutually interchangeable."
His, and my, frustration is the tendency to generalize about our unhoused brothers and sisters, to assume we know their story, to think that one picture capturing one idea of homelessness is interchangeable with another because there is really only one experience of homelessness. And now the story is no longer about a bomb but about the sad (and scary?) experience of being homeless and having to dig through trash cans. I want to fight against that tendency to generalize and stereotype and be fearful of those we don't know. And Gubbio is all about that fight - the unhoused are not commodities nor do they have the property of fungibility!
~ Laura Slattery