Continuing the cross country training tour, SAMHSA’s Homelessness Resource Center training team just returned from a well-attended Regional Training in Los Angeles, California. This year’s regional training series will conclude with the last training in Roanoke, West Virginia, on August 23-24, 2011.
The training was held at The Center for Healthy Living, a beautiful architecturally green space, with both indoor and outdoor space, and rock and water gardens, all funded by The California Endowment. Over 200 participants came from as far away as Alaska and as close as LA’s Skid Row.
I was able to catch up with Rene Buchanan, a Volunteer Coordinator from OPCC’s Daybreak, who shared her reflections on presenting as part of the HRC workshop, “Moving Forward Together: People in Recovery as Colleagues.” Rene shares:
I was incredibly honored when SAMHSA’s HRC made me an integral part of the training. The full presentation was empowering for me. My experience working with the HRC training team has shown me that they are such an amazing group of people and so special to interact with.
I have often shared my story to benefit the agency where I work and where I had received services, but to share my story in a training capacity, where I am teaching, was something else for me. It was validating. My inclusion was a moment of validation. I walked away feeling more conviction for what I truly believe in.
I can continue to do these kinds of trainings. People seem to understand consumer integration in theory, but in practice, people have concerns and doubts. People have to see it happen and how people who come in for services can really help others. Those preconceived notions of who consumers really are creates a power differential that is hard to overcome. It will take a dramatically different way of thinking.
For instance, meeting musician Nathaniel Ayers and seeing the relationship between him and Steve Lopez, author of The Soloist, is part of this dramatically different thinking. When Nathaniel started playing the cello and he started to speak about Mr. Lopez, it made me cry. They are proof positive of one person helping another for fun and for free. I know it started as an article, but it became so much more than that, and today they have something that is based on mutual respect and admiration.
It is always a highlight for me to meet other people from other parts of the US who are doing the same things as I do at the agency where I work. The only way that we are going to make a dent in this problem is if we realize that we are all in this together. We need to share the things that do work and come together as a team. I am leaving this training with a fire beneath me and I feel that I have more conviction around the things I believe in. The people at the training themselves inspired me. I was fortunate to be in a room of such amazing strength and wonderful energy.