I really enjoy writing about relationships, pop culture, and my ardent love for California. However, there is also this whole piece of me that likes to write more academic pieces. This piece of me longs to further practice how to convey the topics that compose my professional soul goals to an audience outside of my own heart and mind.
I want to end homelessness. I want to improve housing conditions. When I mention this to people, I generally get one of two responses:
First, there is the condescending variety that boxes my dreams into a nonprofit do-gooder image: “Oh, good for you. How selfless.”
The assumption is that I spend my days rationing soup at shelters and handing out the socks, coats, and hats that these very responders donated to my organization. And, though I do not in any way intend to undermine the importance and value that these types of services play in communities, there are still many things wrong with this response to my career interest.
One problem is that, even though shelters and essential services for homeless persons are vital to the health and progress of our communities, they are not ending homelessness. My career interest lies in a deeper service delivery model where the provision of actual housing is the core component.
The other main problem with this response is that it incorrectly, and likely unintentionally, pegs me as pursuing this work for the sole purpose of “making myself feel good about myself for accepting such big sacrifices to help those needy people we see on the street.” The people I want to help are not just the people you see on the street, and I don’t want to pursue this work because it’s a “nice thing to do.” I want to do it because it is inherently wrong and grotesquely evil for a country as wealthy as ours to not provide its people with one of humanity’s basic needs. I want to do it because I have been lucky enough to be provided with the education, motivation, and resources needed to, in fact, actually do something in the face of this disgrace.
The second response to my career interest approaches it defensively from a convenient and safe harbor of denial: “People are homeless because they choose to be homeless. They’d get themselves out of that situation if they actually wanted to. They’re just a drain on resources. Not our problem.”
The way in which I can currently respond to this problematic view is through an agitated, altruistic tirade that ultimately leaves me sounding like the do-gooder I got classified as above. This timid harangue does not lead to any good because it renders my honest, well-founded interests as lofty and trite, debasing any of my knowledge and insight on the subject matter.
In order to be taken seriously in this field, I need to be able to confidently support and discuss my views. I need my goals to be rooted in the theory and experience necessary to transcend the “do-gooder” meme, while reforming the crippling results of society’s denial. With that desire in mind, I want to begin using my blog as a chance to learn how to talk about my work. I need to explore this subject at a more intimate level, to take subtopics of the field one at a time for further contemplation and exploration. So, once a month, I hope to take a break from my musings on where romantic comedies, chocolate, and soul questing intersect, and instead share my nascent understanding of what it means to end homelessness, what it will take to end homelessness, and why it matters to both me and to humanity at-large.
That being said, you can nevertheless expect some of these Rough Outlines to be interrupted by giggly asides. This is because I am a girl of many giggles. It is a deeply ingrained thread of my character to be optimistic and effervescent, and I do not believe that this quality needs to be fully sequestered from my intellectual, career-driven counterparts. I do not believe that a giggle-prone nature ought to be viewed as a weakness. In fact, I consider the exact opposite to be true for myself, but this is a theme to be explored more thoroughly in a future post of the traditional “20-something rambles” genre.
What is true is that when the “real-world” critics meet my cheery approach to life, I sometimes feel brushed aside as not being serious, instead being viewed as surface-level or uneducated.
In the Foreword of a book I’m currently reading, called Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion, and Land Value Recapture, Julie Ponce Solé (2010) remarks on the attempt of the book’s editors “to integrate ‘theory and practice, with practice informing theory and theory guiding practice, to the end of influencing urban policy making in ways that improve the quality of life of those who have little power and few resources’” (p. x). She declares that the book presents an optimistic view for the possibilities of inclusionary housing, following up that statement by saying, “I think [the book’s] optimism is borne of realism and do not believe that a pessimist is necessarily a well-informed optimist” (p. xiii).
As I said, I plan to later explore the concept of efficiently getting work done by leveraging, not denying, the qualities of oneself that are natural and true. But, until this future discussion is had, all you need to know is this: Don’t be fooled by my giggles. I’m on a mission to combine my optimism and teeming heart with the realism of theory and practice. I’ve been walking on the precarious edge of a sea full of dreams, and it’s time I fall in, head first.
Solé, J. P. (2010). Foreword. In N. Calavita & A. Mallach (Eds.), Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion, and Land Value Recapture (pp. ix-xiii). Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
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