Some nights it is hard to sleep. Some weeks last forever. Some days we feel helpless.
Sometimes the stories we hear and the emotional outbursts we see can be so overwhelming it is difficult to comprehend. Listening as a man tells about how he was drugged and trafficked for money by his family members. Listening to a small child cry as they tell you about watching their mother being choked by their father. Listening to a woman talk about the continued sexual assault she suffered from age 12-14. These are a few of the hundreds of stories we hear. Every story is unique and individual and shockingly sad.
Hearing these stories can make you angry. Where was someone to protect them when they were children? How can a parent or trusted adult do such horrific things? Why would someone want to hurt someone so helpless?
We will never claim to understand the trauma and pain so many of our residents suffer. We will never tell someone to pull up their boot straps and move on. We will never treat someone poorly because they react inappropriately. Everyone has a story we know nothing about.
I have been at Benjamin’s House for over 6 years and I have now been here longer than any Executive Director to date. Recently, someone asked me what has made my experience different from those before me…what made it stick for me?
My response...realizing that I need to help. I need to be part of the solution for those who have not been as fortunate as me. Realizing that I was blessed with parents who loved and protected me as a child so I wouldn’t suffer from these traumas many of our residents have experienced. Realizing that I grew up not worrying about whether I would eat that day or have a safe place to sleep that night. Realizing that the world is so much bigger than I ever imagined. Everyone has small traumas throughout our childhoods and even as adults. However, studies show that there are 10 dominant traumas that can truly impact a child throughout their development and into adulthood. These experiences can include things like physical and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence. These traumas are so extreme that they change the way a child thinks and understands the world and consequently then it affects how they learn to react.
Homelessness is a trauma. When someone realizes they may not have a safe place to sleep at night it can cause great fear and anxiety. By providing shelter we are able to relieve some of that traumatic fear and anxiety. By providing shelter we are able to allow for a time to feel safe and protected. By providing shelter we are showing a fellow human being kindness and care.
At Benjamin’s House, we are more than a place to lay your head. We are more than a place to get a warm meal. We are a haven of safety, recovery, and compassion and we are here because we can help.
Author, Lori Zahrbock, Executive Director
The Benji House Blog is made up of various experiences and insights from the staff and volunteers at the shelter. It is our hope that personal tales of what we all see and feel will help our community and world be a understand and allow compassion for those who need us the most.