I Salute Them

“Nobody here is special.” That was the comment recently made by a staff member at a local women’s shelter. They made the comment in a snarky, insider tone. Apparently, the staff member was, in an indirect way, referencing a small change one of the shelter’s residents had made. The staff member was taking a pot shot at the resident and implying that they had broken the rules of staying at the shelter–something that could possibly bar the guest from being able to have a bed.

The staff member ‘s comment was wrong on a variety of levels. Wrong because the resident had asked for, and received, permission from the administration of the shelter before making the change. Wrong again because the comment was made in conversation with another resident –– one that had engaged in violence and threats against the first, and who had been subsequently barred from the shelter for their comments.

Furthermore, it was wrong because the staff members were socializing with one resident, and conspiring against the other, all the while receiving a social work paycheck. The comment made by the staff member was egregiously wrong because of the message it sent to other guests at the shelter, some of whom have witnessed violence and threats, and become demoralized when they see such behavior sanctioned by someone on the payroll. Homeless women already constantly receive threats to their physical and emotional security. For a paid person to act in such an unprofessional manner exacerbates their stress in an unconscionable way.

Most importantly, the snarky staff member was wrong in the very spirit of the statement to which anyone who has spent any time in the community of homeless women can attest. These women are extraordinary. To survive in the face of tumultuous uncertainty, economic injustice, social dismissal and erroneous judgment against their circumstances and characters, these women perform the equivalent of pulling rabbits out of hats, every single day.







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