“Can you thank everyone here for being so nice?”
A few minutes before our weekly house meeting (during which staff and members discuss concerns or suggestions for the center), one of our members asked staff to thank everyone for being warm, helpful, and nice. Though our goal for the people who walk through our doors is to ultimately help them find housing, we also strive to make Georgetown Ministry Center a warm, safe, and comfortable place where people can hang out, see familiar faces, and meet new friends. We tell our members that they are responsible for the atmosphere and mood in the center.
Today’s house meeting demonstrated the community feeling that we aim for. We thanked everyone for their help and together revised a policy about computer usage on the weekends. Then one of our members raised his hand and addressed the crowd:
“The people who work here are here for us. Whatever we want, they try and get for us– ironing board, bowls, silverware… When you take from the center, you’re not only stealing from the center, but you’re stealing from yourself. … The cups and the headphones are here for us to use, but if you take them, we’re not going to have them anymore.”
The change in participation during our house meetings is noteworthy. When we started, almost no one talked (or even stayed for the meeting). Then, our members would direct their concerns only at staff. Now, our members will address each other. It is wonderful to watch.
I am constantly impressed by how great our members are. They manage the sign-up list for the computers themselves and teach each other how to reboot our overworked coffee machine. When small conflicts arise, people nearby help mediate. We have a crew of people who will sweep our floors, as well as the alleyway outside. Boxes of supplies are whisked out of staff hands and put into the cupboards without us even having to ask.
If you haven’t been in to see our new center, please feel free to wander by one day. We’ll get one of our members to give you the tour.