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The Power of Relationship

  By Zeke Campfield, Director, Housing Advocate Network

I wasn’t surprised to read in a online article  that providing a small but consistent cash stream to a pool of unhoused individuals in San Francisco ultimately led to most of them finding housing. After all, why should it make a difference whether a housing resource came in the form of a voucher or cold, hard cash? Those who advocate to keep the “middle man” in this equation might consider learning more about the root causes of homelessness.

What was surprising was further in the article, a little affirmation about what we’re trying to do at MIC’s Housing Advocate Network: To get the money, the participants had to agree to a continued relationship with a volunteer friend. The idea is about understanding “relational poverty” as a barrier to accessing resources in what can be incredibly confusing and demoralizing service delivery systems.

“Building a relationship with a volunteer helped recipients begin to believe in a different future … Volunteers also helped recipients talk through how they could use the money to reach specific goals.”

One study participant said his volunteer gave him “hope, confidence, and friendship” – three essentials that equipped him with the strength and confidence to change. Perhaps we all take for granted the importance of our relationships in brining our behavior, values and goals into alignment?

When I talk to folks in Missoula about volunteering for HAN – a real, tangible way citizens can participate in local housing solutions – I sometimes run into some typical lines of resistance: Time is always top dog, but “I don’t know anything about housing” is also common. There’s also resistance that’s rooted in a culture that sees votes, money and social media debates as the true venue for addressing social issues. Isn’t this what we’re paying our city council to fix?

  Let’s walk through this one at a time:

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HAN

HAN- It’s all about Relationships


               It would be easy to circle the wagons and focus inward on the health and wealth of ourselves and our families during what’s turned out to be a pretty scary year. But if there was ever a time to find creative and resourceful ways to extend support to our neighbors this must be it. By leaning into anxiety and fear – as opposed to keeping their distance – the volunteers at the Housing Advocate Network recognize this irony and continue to work tirelessly to help marginalized community members stay connected to important housing resources.

               Permanent and stable housing is complicated ends for these volunteers, but the means is actually simple: Building relationships.

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Common Good Missoula, Family Promise, HAN, Missoula Works

Stay at Home Fundraiser

This year has been challenging for all of us, particularly for those who worry about meeting their basic needs, who have health risks and complications, and for those who are isolated and lacking community supports. Even through these challenging times, we have also witnessed the beauty of our community. Neighbors delivering food boxes and finding a way to get essential items to those in need, volunteers continuing to meet in person or on the phone with someone who may just need a listening ear and a bit of reassurance that they are on the right path, nourishing meals and nights spent in congregations even during a pandemic, and hundreds of MIC members coming together week after week to visualize and create a world where equity, civility, relationships, and hope win the day. 

In a normal year, we would celebrate and build relationships with each other

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