Writing and Listening

by Wendy Grace Evans
May 25, 2010

Image of Wendy Grace Evans

I write for the HRC from my kitchen counter in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During the day, I am alone, but I’m never lonely. Some days I interview people who work here in New Mexico, in person. But most of the time, I spend my days on the phone, talking to people about their work in the field of homeless services.

I was struck by HRC trainer Wayne Centrone’s blog post when he wrote about how people working in the homeless service field regularly experience loneliness, exhilaration, defeat, and the lack of time for reflection. People tell me the same thing all the time.

In the last year I have interviewed over 120 people around the country about their professional lives as homeless service providers, policy makers, and researchers. My goal is to share information about evidence-based and promising practices, successful program models, emerging research, and new policies that shape the field. But there is always a human story embedded in every interview.

I strive to make my interviews into collaborative conversations. I use open-ended questions to learn more about a person’s work. I try to make the interview into a space for reflection, asking people to share what sustains and inspires them, in their work and their lives. Last week I interviewed a Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) Program Coordinator in recovery, two Executive Directors, and a psychiatrist who works in Assertive Community Treatment and Outreach. The topics of the interviews included Motivational Interviewing simulations for medical students, the importance of meditation and self-care, approaches to HPRP funding allocations, street outreach, services for veterans, and historical reflections on building the infrastructure of homeless services.

People talk to me.

I listen to the people I interview, and we experience a connection that I have the privilege to share with HRC community members. I love the reciprocity of collaborative communication. Last week, two people shared with me that they never have to time to reflect on their work in this field. They thanked me for the opportunity to pause.

One man was a monk for 3 years before becoming the Executive Director of a men’s shelter and practices daily meditation for an hour every morning. This practice supports and informs his role as an administrator. Another man I interviewed shared that he is an engineer by training, a veteran, and a man in recovery. He believes he connects with people he helps through stories and understands some of his most tragic personal experiences are his best asset. One leader in the field is a yoga instructor and the principles of yoga inform her work and her way of being with others. Another provider has a painting given to him by a woman he helped on an outreach. He described the painting as an abstract representation of grief and relief, a reflection of her successes and struggles.

Every week brings new interviews, and each interview is a new opportunity for growth, reflection, learning, and sharing.

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Category: HRC Insight