People in the Living Room

LR - LogoHeads of Household | TBRA | Clients served | F to M transgender | SNHAP (with an “h”!) | SSDI 35,000 clients served | HIV + | at or above capacity | Federal Poverty Line | Negative PPD | HOPWA

Jargon, metrics, and statistics are some of our most useful tools. Statistics and program evaluation metrics help us shape future work strategies. Jargon shortens conversations and clarifies speech. But these are also tools of detachment, permitting each one of us to create a sense of space between us and the person in need. To some extent this detachment is necessary; without it, each of us would spend our entire day with a single client or weeping with despair at the enormity of our social ills. In my last job, which was focused upon sexism in a global denomination of more than eleven million members, we regularly discussed the struggle to remain connected with the human reality of sexism. Without intentional reminders, our strategy grew focused upon policies and statistics which only result in incremental or invisible changes for individuals.

At Living Room, we never have that problem. Each morning when I arrive, people are waiting or being seen by our intake case managers. Wednesdays are the most striking. Between 8:00am and 12pm, walk-in appointments are permitted and are first come, first served; therefore, by the time I arrive at 8:30am, 4 or 5 clients are waiting, and the first two already meeting with someone. Almost every week, at least one client has not had access to a shower, and it’s not uncommon to overhear the client and staff discussing where to reliably find something to eat. More than once, a client has shown up with all their worldly goods in hand.

This daily reminder of why I seek to connect community leaders and organizations shapes every conversation I have. This work accomplishes more than statistical changes to Georgia’s housing insecure and AIDS infection rate statistics. Because of Living Room, Billy was able to get sober, move into supportive housing and now volunteers to help others struggling with homelessness. Living Room staff facilitated transitional housing for Patricia who gave birth to a healthy child and did not spread HIV because she had a place to store her medicines and could take them every day.

Sometimes, I find myself using the phrase “countless others,” but the truth is, we do count each one. Each one has a face, a name, a story, and a family. I may not know them, but one of our staff do know the story, the life of each one. I cannot know their stories, names, or details while they are clients out of respect and to protect their privacy, so I cannot tell you the specifics. But I know something a little more fundamental – these people are part of my world, and we are humans together and I will do whatever I can to help connect their stories with Living Room’s board, community supporters, advocates, funders, and leaders so that every one of the mother’s child who walks in our door is met with a “yes, tonight you will have a place to bathe, to store your medicine, and to sleep without worry.”

To learn more about Living Room and our efforts to end homelessness for people in Georgia living with HIV/AIDS, visit our website at http://www.livingroomatl.org.