Restoring Hope

Posted on November 9, 2010

This week’s blog was written by VSH’s MSW intern, Robin Gahan

Hope – it’s a word we hear often, but perhaps fail to consider how deeply imbued it is with many nuances.  It’s driven political campaigns.  It’s helped some people cope with loss, or illness, and further still with recovery.  For some, hope implies a spiritual state of grace, for others a state of mind, and yet for others a dream to be realized.  In his influential Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher, echoes his own sentiment regarding hope.  As one of six critical elements of true dialogue, he asserts that hope is not so much a state of mind as it is a search or process of action,

“Hope is rooted in [humans] incompletion, from which they move out in constant search – a search which can be carried out only in communion with others.”

As a social worker and advocate, I cannot express how important hope is to the work I do.  The NASW Code of Ethics, which guides the profession, is driven by six core values: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence.  For me, it’s not a stretch to say that valuing the dignity and worth of people and the importance of human relationships fits well with hope.  When I moved to Richmond in 2001, I was emotionally struck by the prevalence of homelessness.  I knew that I had to be a part of meaningful change in the lives of others, in restoring hope.  In fact, it led me to pursue social work.   

Persons experiencing homelessness or those who are formerly homeless can tell you what it is to lose hope.  Sometimes you don’t even have to ask, it’s written on their faces.  In the face of adversity, some people can only focus on immediate survival and lose all sense of hope.   At Virginia Supportive Housing there is no conditional statement on treatment in order to be housed.  According to John Rio,

“Many people do not seem to be motivated when offered services now and a chance for housing and jobs later.  Repeated experience has taught many people that ‘later’ means ‘never’.” 

Recognizing that our clients have experienced failure time and time again, VSH desires to restore hope and provide people with an opportunity to believe again.   This is exactly the reason that Virginia Supportive Housing is capable of transforming lives and transforming communities.  For some, it may take more than a few attempts to fully engage in making change in their life – but we are here to support them and affirm their dignity and worth whenever they are ready.  We are restoring hope – and it’s a beautiful thing.

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