My Turn: Reflections: Project Homeless Connect

Several weeks ago, the Juneau Homeless Coalition sponsored Project Homeless Connect. This event is designed to bring service providers and those experiencing homelessness together, to survey those who are homeless, and to demonstrate community support for Juneau’s efforts to end homelessness. While I believe all three goals were addressed, I want to talk particularly about community, and what it means to be a part of one.

In my academic life, I have been considering the difference between being a consumer and a citizen. Consumers use their resources to obtain services or things they want. Citizens, on the other hand, are members of something larger. While these definitions are not all-inclusive, I think they speak to the way we look at ourselves and others. As citizens, we have rights and responsibilities. I believe that as citizens in this community, we need to look at our rights and responsibilities critically, and ensure that our values are represented.

The Project Homeless Connect was, for me, a tangible demonstration of what the community of Juneau values. We value creating and maintaining relationships with other people. We value providing a safety net for each community member. We will step up if someone, anyone, goes without.

I heartily thank everyone who was involved — whether providing services or accessing them. It takes courage and dignity to ask for help, and courage and dignity to provide it. If you are interested in helping next year or want more info, please visit the Juneau Homeless Coalition website at http://www.jedc.org/housing-coalition.shtml. I feel proud of Project Homeless Connect and look forward to what we, as the community of Juneau, manifest in our creating and maintaining relationships.

• O’Neal Cole is Program Manager at AWARE, Inc. and currently serves as co-chairwoman of the Juneau Homeless Coalition.

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