it's important to be able to listen to someone. i don't think it's an inherent skill but one that has to be learned over time. i think being an effective listener comes over a period of time in life. that's especially true when you're speaking to someone in a difficult situation. whether it be homelessness, financial trouble, marital trouble, addiction, mental illness or some other personal struggle, listening is an effective tool in dealing with the problem. on most occasions you don't have to do anything except listen to realize the core problem that the person is trying to convey to you. it is perhaps the most overlooked and undervalued tool we have when trying to deal with homelessness. listening says "what matters to you matters to me and i'm here to help you."
the art of listening is something that often homeless advocates, outreach workers and agency employees forget or have never learned to effectively use in dealing with the homeless. we are so eager to tell the homeless about the latest program available for them, how much better it would be if they went to a mission or shelter and how we could vastly improve their circumstances if they would only do as we are saying, that we forget to ask the one simple question and state the one simple thing that we are primarily there for. we should state that we are there for and because of you and what can we do to make sure that we help you in what you need? because of busy schedules, the rush to rescue the homeless and the crush of people needed to be assisted, advocates and agencies often forget to ask that one simple question or practice that one basic principle. they have automatic answers and automatic responses and procedures to situations that come up in the daily routine, often forgetting that it is an individual in front of them and that they should pause, slow down and effectively listen to what that individual is saying. by not listening, they are missing not only the individuals concern relating to his or her situation, but also on the chance to gain knowledge, experience and information that they themselves could use.
as readers on twitter, facebook and various newsfeeds, the general public is also complicit in the art of not listening. we see articles, news reports and different op eds concerning the homeless and how programs are effectively dealing with and reducing homelessness. we see the twitter headline or some other one liner and glance at the article without listening. we should take a moment and listen to what the article is saying, but more important we should take the time to listen to what the homeless in our own community are saying. are they saying that homelessness is shrinking? are they saying programs being implemented are really helping? are they telling you that the direction your community and your city is headed is really benefiting them and helping them to end their homelessness? what are they telling you?
today we are flooded with homeless solutions and policies to help the homeless and we rush to spread the news to the homeless about wonderful solutions that are available to them. there are tweets and articles and reports of what is working in one city or another for the homeless. there are meetings of city officials, planning councils and commissions gathering data and compiling reports on how to help and what is best for the homeless. what alot of these councils, commissions and agencies are overlooking are the homeless themselves. they're not listening to them. they're moving forward with plans and programs designed for the homeless without speaking to or having input from the very ones that these programs are suppose to benefit. politicians and city officials are passing programs and laws that effect the poor and the homeless without speaking to the ones that they effect and asking the simple question, "what can we do to help you?" the homeless are not a group, they are not a statistic, they are not a chart and they are not a bracket in a report. they are not a number to be manipulated to further the funding for the following year. they are individuals. each city has its own population, its own set of unique problems and homeless personality. each city has their own unique set of homeless problems and should formulate their own unique and viable, compassionate and realistic solution. each city should stop and listen and ask that question...how can we help you.
i think if they slowed down, took some time, and listen to what the homeless. the poor and those who are stuggling would tell them, they might find the answers on how to truly help and reduce homelessness and more effectively come up with policies that are beneficial and not detrimental. for now, more often than not, they're still busy talking and not listening. the voice of the homeless is still not being heard.