An Honor and a Privilege

Lindsay, who oversees all of our Housing First projects, got married earlier this summer. Her wedding was probably everything you might imagine of a quintessential Vermont wedding: vows said under crisp blue skies atop a rolling grass knoll, surrounded by trees plump with apples; a beloved dog a part of the ceremony; a reception in a renovated barn; craft beer; and of course, so much love. I couldn’t have been more happy for Lindsay, who has been with Pathways Vermont over six years, and her new husband Dan.

I also got the opportunity that day to spend time with some Pathways Vermont staff in a more social setting. A couple of times I was present when staff were introducing themselves to Lindsay’s or Dan’s family members and heard them explaining the work they do with Lindsay, how they support people who are struggling with homelessness, or coming out of jail, to live in the community. I felt like a real fly on the wall! I am rarely in situations to overhear what staff would say to strangers in the community about our work. I was struck by their spontaneous words, spoken with deep sincerity. I heard more than once, “It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of the people’s lives that we serve.” An honor and a privilege.

Later in the summer I got the chance to visit two of our satellite offices in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Jenn, a client who had recently moved into an apartment.

Jenn lives in a beautifully maintained Victorian home that has been split up into apartments. Down a long hallway, and up several flights of stairs, we were met by Jenn’s feisty terrier Chloe who, after a vigorous greeting, let us into a one bedroom attic apartment with wood floors and two large skylights that stream light into the room.

As Jenn shared her harrowing journey of drug addiction, hospitalizations and years experiencing homelessness, I was grateful to be sitting in the end of the story: a safe, comfortable apartment with food in the refrigerator and a spot in the kitchen for Chloe’s favorite water dish. It was painful to imagine Jenn, with her sweet face, quick smile, and obvious love of Chloe, in those horrible situations as she described each one.

Jenn also spoke fondly about the many Pathways Vermont staff she has crossed paths with in recent months: our intake coordinator Amos, who travels the state and is the first encounter people have with our services and who embodies all that Pathways is– authenticity, sincerity, non-judgement and love; Tori, our Housing First Program Services Manager, who is a fierce advocate, always ready for the next fight, with a heart as big as the state; and amazing Amanda, Housing Coordinator, who works with landlords and finds affordable apartments like Jenn’s in a housing market with an extremely low vacancy rate. And those are just the few staff Jenn mentioned in our short time together. There are so many more incredible staff, each one a unique contributor to all we do at Pathways Vermont.

We took a lot of photos that day, but the photo I will remember the most, is the one I didn’t get a chance to capture. I like to take photos and am forever framing shots in my mind. There is always the one with the light just right, and the bird, or butterfly, stretching their wings in a perfect display of texture and color that you just miss, yet stays with you nonetheless.

When we first got to the Victorian and Jenn let us in the front door, she and Amanda were walking in front of us leading the way to her new apartment. They were chatting and laughing together, arm in arm, down the narrow hallway, heads leaning into each others. Yes, the lighting was just right, and their silhouettes framed in the hazy afternoon sun, were not “property manager” and “client,” but human and human, sharing a moment of love and joy, having overcome enormous obstacles to be here, about to show off Jenn’s new home.

It is indeed, in the words of my wonderful colleagues, “an honor and a privilege” to be a part of this Pathways experience. An honor and a privilege.

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