#JVReflects by Cat Driscoll (Missoula, MT ’18-19) serving at Family Promise as Housing Advocate Navigator.
I am embarrassed to admit what has surprised me the most in the past four months that I have been serving at Family Promise in Missoula, Montana. What has shocked me is not the difficult conversations I have had with my roommates about social justice, or the copious amounts of expired milk, beans, and other mystery foods we have consumed. And no, it has not been the difficult juxtaposition of living in an alcohol-dominated college town while serving families who are recovering from addiction. The thing that has shocked me the most here in Missoula is that one of the first families I worked with, Charlotte and Sawyer*, were housed because of the compassion of people who didn’t even know them. These people recognized a family who was working hard to build a better life for themselves– and helped them do that.
For months, Charlotte and Sawyer had applied to a multitude of property management companies and Craigslist ads and were denied from all of them. One day, Charlotte and Sawyer came into my office asking if I would check out a trailer with them. They told me that the trailer owner, Ralph, was interested in them based on their story, but that the landowner saw their credit score and criminal record and denied their application. This is when the magic happened – Ralph reached out to all of the neighbors in the neighborhood and asked if they would be okay if Charlotte, Sawyer and their kids moved into the trailer. These neighbors, who had never met Charlotte or Sawyer, ended up calling the landowner and advocated for them to be able to move in next door, eventually winning him over. When they moved in, their dreams of a place of their own became a reality. They started to make the trailer a home, and became advocates for another family from Family Promise to move into a trailer behind them – truly exemplifying what Justice Starts at Home means.
I am incredibly grateful for Sawyer and Charlotte and what they have taught me so early on in my year of service. They have taught me that a physical house does not necessarily make a home. For the families I serve, although they don’t have a house, they have a home in each other. They have a home in the support they show one another as they all work towards breaking down their barriers to housing. They have a home in the companionship and laughter they share. We have to respect each other and respect the humanity of those we work with. It is a ripple effect. Ralph and other families showed Charlotte and Sawyer fairness, respect and compassion, therefore allowing Charlotte and Sawyer to do the same when they advocated for their friends. For justice to start at home, it has to come from within. Justice truly begins when we acknowledge the inherent dignity and worth of every human. Justice begins when we take a chance on one other.
*names changed to protect anonymity