I took a hit yesterday.  Yet another person — and one who was supposed to be working with me and Asheville Homeless Network — hit me with his impression that nobody thinks AHN does anything.  Then why am I working so bloody hard on it?  Gotta be doing something.  This really got under my self-esteem yesterday, and while I’ve mostly recovered, I still felt the need to make a response.  I posted the following to the AHN blog and to the Yahoogroup…

What Does AHN DO?????

I am sorry that I have to be answering this question again.  After all the work I’ve done and some of you have done, this question should not still be the first thing I hear on the street.

Asheville Homeless Network is a NETWORK.  It’s not Moss Bliss.  It is not about giving things away.  It is about working together.  I can, myself, only do so much… and have other things I’m doing.  I never felt I was the perfect person to be running AHN, but that person has yet to come along.

What the Network does is fill in a few of the gaps in the local system.  Maybe only small gaps, but nobody else is doing it.  Socks.  Bus passes.  Knit caps.  Helping with damage and utility deposits (when funds exist).  Helping with car repairs and impound fees (when funds exist).

What the Network CAN do is unlimited.  Our nonprofit status allows us pretty free rein in working with the homeless.  Some things need money — some things don’t.  Meeting with people on the street and at A-HOPE has never been my best thing — but others of you do that, and you need to let people know you’re doing it as part of the Network.  We’re being judged only by what *I* can or can’t, will or won’t do, and that’s not fair to all of us.

We’re a far cry from being everything we can be.  We need people to think of things to do and take charge of doing them — and do them publicly as AHN functions.

What I can do that most of our members are not so good at is attend meetings.  The well-meaning (and sometimes wrong-headed) people who are working to reduce the impact of homelessness in Asheville see me as someone they can talk with.  I have had meetings with the City Manager, the Police Chief, and the Sheriff, as well as meetings with the Asheville-Buncombe Coalition for the Homeless.  In fact, I’ve missed the last two ABCH meetings, and one member called to offer me a ride next time because I was missed.  This is something important and helps make AHN as effective as it is (and can be), but is not the only thing that needs being done.

I’m spending 20-30 hours a week on this.  I spend another 10-15 hours per week on mental health peer support, and perhaps another 40 hours per week on Internet and telephone support of people with various needs.  I do not get paid for any of this, except for my Disability check.  (I am also Administrative Editor for Eternal Press, a Canada-based ePublisher, which takes 5-10 hours per week, but I do get paid a teeny bit for that.) Which also brings up the point that I’m also disabled; I’m dealing with my own issues on top of everything else.  I would ask that you cut me some slack when discussing whether I “do anything” or not.

OK, that’s enough for now.  I hope to see lots of people at the next meeting.  Let’s get this ball rolling.  My job is to make sure the ball is there to roll, maybe quarterback a bit, but I can’t do all the other roles too.

In service,

Helping the Homeless Help Themselves

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