As a social worker it is part of my professional duty to follow the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. Part D of Section 6.04 Social and Political Action states: Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.
In addition, one of the first things covered in social work school is that it is of utmost importance to recognize, analyze and own up to my personal biases. We all have them. We were raised with them, formed them out of our own experiences and walk through every interaction in our lives with them hanging directly in front of our faces.
Today's editorial was a well-intended article with a biased undercurrent that has unfortunately been a large part of all the community conversations around The People's House over the last year. If we are going to have productive community conversations about this important topic that effects us all, we must recognize, analyze and own up to our personal biases.
So, it is with my professional charge to interrupt discrimination against vulnerable populations that I must respond to the bias presented in this article.
The author suggests:
"Those who object to locating a low-barrier shelter in their neighborhoods – business or residential – are not bad people. It’s natural to want to protect your family, property values or business in the face of what you perceive as a threat. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the conversation civil when it’s driven by fear...
...We need a broadly constituted task force, representing as many interests as possible, to find a location through consensus rather than conflict... The task force should follow a process similar to the municipal model for locating essential public facilities, such as jails and landfills, which have to go somewhere because the community needs them".
I couldn't agree more with the first paragraph. It is natural to want to protect your family and financial well-being. It is very hard to keep the conversation civil when it is driven by fear. However, I think that we have done a great job as a community of keeping this conversation civil. It was said over and over again at our last forum that although we may not fully agree, we can respect each other's opinions and be proud to live in a community that cares so deeply.
The specific suggestion of engaging a municipal siting process similar to that of jails and landfills is where I have to disagree with the author. This suggestion illuminates a bias that has been a large part of the various conversations around our homeless neighbors for the last year. It is my professional charge to advocate against the discrimination of the homeless individuals that I serve. Our guests have not committed crimes and are not garbage. Do people living in homelessness commit crimes? Yes. Do people living in homes commit crimes? Yes. We will never move forward as a community if we do not acknowledge the biases that we bring with us to this conversation.
The People's House shelter project should not be sited in the same way that jails and landfills are sited. The People's House should be sited with the understanding that our homeless neighbors deserve the exact same rights as all of our neighbors. They deserve to be innocent until proven guilty.