Honoring Our Sector on Labor Day

You arrive miraculously on time to work to find stacks of paperwork decorating your desk. You learn that your reliable co-worker has COVID and cannot come in to work for a week. Your other five colleagues quit three months ago, and their positions are still vacant.

Meanwhile, you are greeted by a Vietnam-era Army veteran who just walked through the door. He is homeless for the first time and does not know what to do.

At the same time, your phone is ringing off the hook and you still need to muddle through your 25 existing voicemails that emerged since yesterday.

Now, four more individuals simultaneously walk in seeking help. You have a staff meeting in 20 minutes and another work meeting directly afterwards. You debate whether to meet with these clients and forgo a quick lunch and bathroom break. You ask to be excused for 3 minutes so that you can sit on the toilet while eating a pack of sandwich crackers. You then return to assist your guests whom you care about deeply.

And that’s just one morning.

Not Your Typical 9–5 Job

Working in the homelessness system of care has traditionally been tough. It typically requires long hours, high caseloads, and lots of required documentation. That comes with the anxiety over obtaining grants and maintaining donations. It comes with the confusion of having to navigate various funding streams. And it increasingly comes with a fear of staff turnover (even in the best of times). Throw in a pandemic, the “Great Resignation,” and increases in unsheltered homelessness, and you have a perfect storm for a workforce crisis.

Throughout it all, you find yourself desperately trying to provide the same level of care that you did in 2019. Despite your fears of getting sick, of losing staff, of burning out from witnessing so much trauma. Despite feeling the pinch of rising rent, grocery, and gas bills. Despite concerns for your own housing stability. That’s a tall order!

You are Life Savers

In honor of Labor Day, the Alliance cannot thank you enough for all you do every day to save the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors. On a day that recognizes the contributions of laborers, it’s only fitting to uplift and celebrate the hard work of homeless service providers.

You are the shelter or day shelter staff who greet people each day and make them feel welcomed and safe.

You are the case manager who connects clients to crucial resources and forms lasting, meaningful relationships with them.

You are the middle-manager who is negotiating the needs of your staff as well as the needs of your supervisors while running programs as smoothly as possible.

You are the executive director making hard decisions to keep your organization financially viable and impactful while also ensuring your employees feel appreciated.

You are the state liaison or Continuum of Care lead collaborating with nonprofits to guide them in obtaining vital funding (and possibly spending the holiday weekend working on NOFO applications).

You are the outreach worker who visits encampments to offer trust and integrity.

You are the legal representative who protects tenant rights and mediates evictions.

You are the housing navigator who tirelessly searches for affordable housing options.

You are the prevention coordinator catching people before they lose their homes.

You are the food pantry coordinator who tries everything to bridge the food insecurity gap that impacts the community.

You are the coordinated entry specialist or intake worker who keeps up with who is experiencing homelessness.

You are the street medicine team who provide compassionate medical and mental health care to unsheltered households.

You are the advocate who fights on local, state, and federal levels for the basic human right of housing – and you will not stop until you win!

We Need You!

The Alliance cannot do its job without the work of providers like you. Your unrelenting spirit drives our work and guides us on next steps.

Please know that you are not alone nor forgotten. The Alliance is dedicated to ensuing that your voices are heard and your needs are met.

You are first responders. You save lives selflessly. And you are truly critical in the work to end homelessness. From the bottom of our hearts, we at the Alliance thank you!