Not so long ago, Melanie Schmit, the Chair of Housing First Netherlands, came to the Living Museum with a bunch of Housing First workers from all over the Netherlands. I had this experience before, while visiting lots of Housing First teams all over the World, but it struck me that all these workers, although very unique people, like the people they house, have striking similarities and characteristics. People who apply for jobs in Housing First Programs are Birds of Paradise, as are the people they house. Here’s an overview on some presumptions why health care workers apply for jobs in Housing First programs.
They have a profound desire to be Free. Free from bureaucracy. Free from meddlesome managers and team leaders. Free from prejudice. Free from office hours. Free from professional boundaries. They take pride in being World Citizens. Free from Stigma.
Housing First Workers significantly wear more tattoo’s, nose- and earrings, beards, caps, shorts, eye-catching clothes, name tags, t-shirts with slogans and oneliners, colorful hair, sparkles in their eyes and last but not least, Smiles!
They have an unconditional Love for Birds of Paradise. The more different, the grander their admiration. The more non-conformistisch, the sooner their involvement. The more whole-hearted, the quicker they act. The more resistent to ‘walk in line’, the bigger their desire to coach and walk with you. The louder your voice, the louder their protest. Housing is a basic Human Right.
They ‘know’ the 30 articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
They ‘live’ this Declaration. They address having lived experience as the best reason to give people what they ask for. Housing, Money and Love. They speak up and stand up for your rights.
Housing First Workers listen and then, apart from providing people what they need (a home, love and money), they do nothing. They wait in Wonder. People with lived experience know what’s best for them. Their desire for- and dreams do not differ from those of people without lived experience. After waiting in wonder, Housing First Believers listen again and do something creative. Doing is the best way of thinking.
They filter out stigmatizing vocabulary from their talks. So-called Anti-Social-Behavior is seen as the ability to speak up and stand up for your rights. So-called hypo-manic-behavior is seen as having high expectations of oneself. So-called hopelessness is seen as a temporary episode of being unaware of opportunities. So don’t use stigmatizing language. Filter out ‘Psychiatry’ and ‘Addiction’. Use the Declaration of Human Rights to speak up for people with Lived Experience. That’s what my American Friends do. It’s the clever thing to do.
Housing First Workers have no desirable wish to change people and take over their responsibility for creating a life in the midst of society. They will walk with you, coach and guide, according to your wishes. They know they were not sent from heaven to give people what they, according to Human Rights, deserve. Housing, Money and Love are Basic Human Rights. It’s the normal and clever thing to do.
Housing First Workers change people lives for the better. They know that the choice for changing your attitude towards life in general is based on details. The way you shake another persons hand, the way you look at someone, while shaking his or her hand, the way you move your body, the fact that you did not care about ‘stretching’ the amount of time you are allowed to talk to individual clients. In the end, it’s not the house, it’s not the money. It’s a Love Thing. It’s what you do in the 1st 5 minutes of getting to know a new person in your life. It’s about the personal relationship.
Housing First Workers strive for building Community. Being a member of a Housing First Team feels like being part of a new, sparkling, vibrant and caring Global Family. And that is just what they offer homeless individuals. A new Family. In the midst of society, unrecognizable from other citizens. People have good reasons to act like they act, to say what they say. So, if a new tenant asks for a three piece, grey suit because you housed him in a fancy neighborhood, provide in that and you will have a friend and family member forever.