Olympia Homelessness Leadership Summit

Five months ago I hosted the Olympia Homelessness Leadership Summit with Paul Horton. It’s fun to watch how the work continues to unfold.   The harvest from the original event can be found here.  The opening lines of the original invitation read: “It’s time to have a different conversation about homelessness in Olympia, one that acknowledges the complex nature of the issues and seeks to build an atmosphere of mutual understanding, learning and innovation. One that helps us work better together as we address these challenges in our community. One that shapes next steps in a powerful way”.

One piece that keeps travelling since the event are the AGREEMENTS  we created for how to work together (see below).   These have been brought into other meetings to set the tone and quality of conversations.   This week there is a public meeting on the issue – all who attended the summit were encouraged to attend and help shift how public meetings go: “We hope that we can all bring the spirit, intention and commitment to work together into this meeting.”

Theresa Slusher , a member of the core calling team has been publishing a series of articles as a citizen for Works In Progress a small local paper.    You’ll find these articles in the August, September and October issues.

Finally, the movement and work continues in several key areas that emerged at the meeting: coordinating rapid rehousing, a revitalize downtown levy that includes business and housing needs, and a dialog between the homeless & business residents who share downtown and need it to be a safe and vibrant place.


Be willing to ask courageous questions

Create “meeting” spaces of co-learning and honest inquiry – where we can ask courageous questions without fear of retribution.  Show up curious – be willing to be wrong and open to learn.

 Show respect even when it’s hard. 

Respect the speaker and the listener.  Listen to understand, not to respond.   As a speaker, keep storytelling/info-sharing relevant and succinct.  Find common points of agreement and concern.

 Stay present and accept what “is”

“Allow” honesty, trust and authenticity to come into our meetings, encouraging people to share their truth, honest appraisal of the situation and their dreams.  – try to temper our “agendas”

Work together

We have duplication of services and different sandboxes in the same playground.  See what’s happening, and together see how to create a healthier ecosystem.

Acknowledge when our fears are paper tigers

We recognize scarcity can bread contempt – and choose to step back from that dynamic.  We recognize we touch on survival level issues and it’s easy to go into “fight or flight” – Thus we pause now and then to gather our thoughts and refocus compassionately and creatively on our efforts to build a resilient community.

 Really imagine the community we want to live in

Be proud of who we are and all we’ve accomplished.  Work toward success for our local businesses (healthy economy) and solutions that build a vibrant, welcoming, safe, and pro-social (inclusive) downtown culture.  Improving the homelessness system is part of this effort.

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