Beauty + Messiness
By: Holly Anderton
When asked to describe drop-in, I often find myself at a loss for words. It’s a mixture of beauty and messiness; heaviness and strength; weariness and energy. Combined, drop-in is a place that authenticity is currency and your word is gold. From the first day of drop-in to now, drop-in has consistently been a place of change and growth.
If someone has asked me in December of 2014, what this work means and why it matters, I would not have truly grasped the need for a place like HQ in our community. I would not have understood that youth deserve a place that not only invites them in, but seeks to celebrate their very existence. An existence that is often crowded with oppression, racial injustice, trauma, and darkness. I would not have known that HQ members would teach me the true meaning of resilience and courage.
Contrary to images plaguing the media of sad, helpless, young people that seem to define youth homelessness in some people’s mind; youth experiencing unsafe and unstable housing are exceptionally brilliant, incredibly talented, and courageous. HQ members fight systems every day that knock them off their feet any chance possible. Systems with so much red tape, bureaucracy, and institutionalized racism that they harm the very people they were intended to help. After which, they come to HQ, and offer grace and understanding to a staff team that is learning what it means to be an ally, a partner, a friend, in the midst of turmoil.
Youth have altered and shaped the way drop-in functions since day one. We are far from having perfected youth-adult partnership, but we continue to seek the balance of youth input with our responsibility to ensure all members experience safety and belonging while at HQ. We’ve made a ton of mistakes. Kicked out youth. Used words we wish we could take back. Missed opportunities to protect youth from violence. Created spaces that we haven’t always been proud of. But rather than giving up on us, HQ members educate us, inform the processes, and help us create change that prevents the same mistakes from happening over and over again.
As we move into the next year, I hope there are less of those mistakes and more opportunities for youth to shape the next steps of HQ. Opportunities where youth can help us take intentional and bold steps into inclusion and what that means in a community where homelessness is equated to less than. Moments for youth to help HQ grow in the ever changing landscape of youth housing. Helping to guide our community into understanding that housing is a basic human right, not a luxury. I hope to see drop-in become a stepping stone, not a stop, for youth to find ways to pursue and accomplish their dreams. And lastly, I hope that HQ becomes a place where all people who enter our doors experience movement towards overcoming their own preconceived ideas of what youth homelessness is. That rather than trying to fix something many know nothing about, we will open our ears and minds to the youth who are shining examples of what it means to find success and hope in a broken and fragmented system—against all odds.