We aren’t just burnt out. We are broken. Not only because of two years spent living through a global pandemic but truly everything. The pandemic, frequent horrific acts of racism and racial injustice, a senseless war overseas, threats to women’s rights, and constant violence here in our own country. Just two weeks ago it was Buffalo. Last week it was young children in Uvalde, Texas. Watching the news has become a daily tidal wave of trauma and pain. It affects us all—the people we serve, our staff, neighbors, families, and friends.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what our community needs and also where Westhab fits in. Three things I know we are in need of are to heal, connect, and build—all things our organization knows well.
People often come to Westhab’s shelters at their lowest point. They’ve exhausted every other alternative and every friend’s couch. For many, it is unfortunately not the first trauma they have experienced in life. Our incredible staff shows humanity in this moment of great need. We listen to understand each person’s story. We put a plan in place to get people back on their feet. So much healing goes on in our programs. It happens one compassionate interaction at a time. At Westhab, it is happening hundreds of times a day.
During the past two years, we became wary of being around one another. At times, it was safer for everyone to stay at home, and to move all meetings and events online. But the isolation revealed a stark fact—humans need each other. At Westhab, we just opened the new Dayspring Community Center in Yonkers to serve as the central hub and connector of the Nodine Hill community. All of our programs offer opportunities for peer support and encouragement as people overcome obstacles together. For many who don’t have anywhere else to turn, Westhab is family and connection. As a staff, Westhab is our family, and we come here to connect and accomplish difficult and great things together. For staff and for clients, being together reconnects us much more strongly to our mission, which we need each other to accomplish.
And we need to build—literally and figuratively. Projects of all kinds that were stalled are coming back. We are beginning to re-invest. We certainly need to build the housing that our community needs. Westhab is in construction on two exciting developments—a state-of-the-art, green, affordable residence in Yonkers and a custom-built shelter, uniquely designed for its purpose, in Queens. As both physical structures take shape, they inspire confidence and signal an investment in community. The act of building is exciting as a large group of people work together to create something that matters.
Looking at the last two years, both the tragedies and the lessons learned, I recognize the critical place organizations like Westhab play in our collective healing, connecting, and building. We contribute to the rising tide, and more importantly, we ensure that it lifts all boats. The only way out is through. My hope is that we come out the other end with a renewed sense of self, a restored sense of community, and ready to rebuild.