Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Major Discernment

What have I let myself in for?

I had a chance meeting two weekends ago, at Call to Action http://www.cta-usa.org/.
A woman named Brenda Myers-Powell--this is her real name because I bet she wants the publicity--is looking for space in which to help women in prostitution find their way out. Given the situation with Priscilla and my feeling that sooner or later she'll be back, I thought we should talk.

Brenda and her friend and business partner, Stephanie, met with me on Sunday. The house was still under construction in the interior design project, so we went around the corner to El Tio and sat down over a meal. We were discussing the possibility of using my house as a place to do this work.

At first we talked about doing something residential. "How do you feel about deadbolts on your bedroom door?" Stephanie asked me. Not good.

The conversation quickly shifted to a drop-in kind of setting. We talked about 12 hours a week, always two people in charge on the premises from a pool of Brenda, Stephanie and their husbands. "We will treat your home like it was our home, and we will treat you like our sister because you are our sister in Christ," they pledged.

But I'm still scared. I called my craziest friend, who told me about the knife fights she used to break up when her drop in center for young people, including gang bangers, was located next to Sarah's Circle, a drop-in center for homeless women, including women in prostitution. "Their pimps will be watching 24/7," she pointed out. I already have that problem thanks to Yup-yup, Priscilla's (I hope) former pimp. I'm very afraid of it getting worse.

I'm taking this week to discern the idea. Not just consider its wisdom but whether it's the kind of folly God calls you to or just straight-out folly, period.

One point that came to me quickly is that my house is my home, not a program. I think Brenda and Stephanie and I have yet to see whether a Catholic Workerish vision of hospitality and a model of a social-service style program are compatible. A friend has already pointed out to me that I've got some good things going with the neighbors already and maybe it's worth it to let them grow. (I'll just add that I'm well aware this idea won't be a big hit with the neighbors and could strain relations with people I want as allies.)

Another feeler that may yet be explored is whether the space at Su Casa vacated by Genesis House might be a possibility. Right now Brenda and Stephanie can't afford rent, but Genesis House wasn't paying the rent they were supposed to be paying, so what if we all went in with expectations that the new occupants wouldn't pay rent now but might in the future? Or that the new program would repair and maintain the space that Genesis House trashed?

I have yet to put out a feeler to Su Casa about this because they were burned badly by Genesis House and likely don't want to even think about anything with any connection to them. (Brenda and Stephanie want to do something independent of Genesis House but the mere fact they "graduated" from the program back in the day might be a source of tension with Su Casa right now, I don't know.)

Anyway, for you friends and readers who might have responses to this or want to offer your thoughts as I take my week of discernment about what's next, I welcome your comments. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Pop Quiz for NetBeans and Struts Users
I learnt two small but interesting things today about Struts, Tomcat, and NetBeans IDE 5.0. Both things are really quite small, but both are also really quite significant and interesting - at least to me.
Find out how to buy and sell anything, like things related to road construction of pa on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like road construction of pa!

Anonymous said...

Mo - call me this weekend. I can call you right back to save you the LD. Let's talk about this.

Clayton said...

Hi --- your sense of activism is really admirable. From anyone who reads this post it's clear that you care deeply about the people in your neighborhood.

I don't know you, so I certainly can't give you "advice," but since you've asked for some feedback I thought I'd chime in: your post reads as though you are struggling with something you feel you "ought" to do. It reads as though you feel like you'd be letting people down, chickening out, or shirking some kind of responsibility if you decide not to. I would suggest focusing on separating the *obligation* you feel from what you *want.* Are they different? If you had never met Brenda and Stephanie, is this something you might come up with on your own? Something you might get interested in pursuing? Or are you feeling some (albeit well-intentioned) pressure, coming from them and from yourself?

I'd also suggest considering how such a move might impact your ability to be a good neighbor and friend on the small scale, which you seem to do really well --- if you are fearful, have crowds of people in your house 12 hours a week (that's a lot of time), and bother your neighbors, will you burn out and develop a new kind of relationship to where you are? One that is less patient, with less energy, and less able to be friends to the kids and people around?

I'm too private a person --- opening my home would drive me to turn inwards and not have anything left for anyone else, but that's just me, of course.

As always, fun to read! I'm interested to hear what you decide...

Anonymous said...

I second Clayton's comment that you should not feel obligated, or that you are shirking some responsibility if you say no.

Here's another way you might consider this: You've been looking for a way to use your house space in, as you put it, a Catholic Workerish sort of way. So, you're "interviewing" different possibilities. Just because you interview someone doesn't make you obligated to offer the opportunity to them.

I used to talk myself out of applying for jobs because I thought it was wrong to apply if I wasn't certain that I would take the job if it were offered to me. I finally decided that this wasn't true and had must more satisfying results when I applied, and even interviewed, without being sure that I wanted that particular job. I learned that the interview gives both the applicant and the offerer the opportunity to learn more about each other in order to make a decision. I think this makes a good parallel to your situation, with you as the "offeror" (of space, rather than a job) and the other women as the "applicants".

I will make another observation, that you have written much about your relationship with the kids in your neighborhood. I remember in particular how touched you were when Dawn and Joey's mom let them spend the night at your house. Having children at your house strikes me as incompatible with this other project.

Your idea about using the Su Casa space also struck me as a potential win-win situation. If the space needs fixing up, then a trade of improvement for a certain rent-free period of time seems like it would benefit both parties. Perhaps you might be in a position to facilitate the negotiation.

Keep us posted. Love, your roomie.

Windy Citizen Share