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We are All Here: A poem on living without a home

June 24, 2021

Elevating the voices of people with lived experience with homelessness, recovery, and incarceration is integral to Pallet’s mission.


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Elevating the voices of people with lived experience with homelessness, recovery, and incarceration is integral to Pallet’s mission. In addition to telling the personal stories of our team and people living in Pallet shelter villages, we aim to raise the voices of system-impacted and marginalized persons everywhere.

We’ve partnered with Path with Art (PWA) to share some personal narratives. PWA is a Seattle-based nonprofit that uses arts engagement to foster the restoration of individuals, groups, and society from the effects of trauma. The organization offers year-round arts education classes, workshops, exhibitions, and showcases to low-to-no income adults.

Pam, a longtime PWA participant, describes PWA as having a profound effect on her life. The following is an original poem by Pam. 

We are All Here

We live in tent cities behind nylon walls, huddled in wool blankets in doorways of neglect.
We live in secured high-rises casting shadows below, houses flooded with desire, homes gated in fear.
We live with slumlords and in public housing too.
We live alone in our minds, wandering along pathways edged by open chains.

We work for corporate greed,
We dumpster dive for food,
We work for non-profits to build a better world,
We ask for spare change, sometimes shoot-up to heal a gaping wound.
We are honest laborers, the shrunken middle class,
We do not ask for handouts, but will reach for a helping hand. 

We race upstairs chasing freedom and we lounge on city streets,
We stand in long lines at food banks, waiting for leftovers we can't afford,
We walk in parks and shop behind gilded walls.
Sometimes we steal in the night, while white collars take in the light to line their coffers gold.

Sometimes life feels darker than the backside of the moon;
we watch her catch her breath 
as she rushes to soften the edges of what we call urban blight.
Sometimes we feel the ecstasy of unity, especially on nights like tonight. 

We are a city on shifting tectonic plates, frayed at the edges, 
clothed in attitudes of love and dismay.
We are a city of others, separate and near.
We are teachers and students alike, but webs twist around our minds, our lives,
isolating us from those who look and think more different than we'd like. 

We are all here, polarized by red and blue fear.
We must break down the walls,
Step out of the shadow of Them, Other, They.
We must hold our sister's gaze, grasp our brother's hand.
Link our minds to overcome judgments about what we think is right.

We are all here; the me in them.
The drum beat of our city, the heartbeat of Seattle, 
the energy that makes our diversity vibrate with rhythm that unites.

 We are All here and we're not going anywhere.

 

Q&A with Pam

Pallet: How long have you been taking Path With Art classes?
Pam: I've been with PWA for 10 years. I can't believe it's been that long. Taking classes with them has given me so many opportunities, including giving me a voice and a platform from which to speak.

Pallet: What's been your favorite class?
Pam: Probably the class that made the biggest difference in my life was a chapbook class. They helped us publish books of our own poetry, self-published but still. I never dreamed I could do such a thing. Mostly I take writing classes, but all the classes I've taken have been incredible. Especially access [to] art events, opportunities to go to the symphony, opera, plays, performances. They help me feel like I'm part of society, and participate in things that normalize my life. 

Pallet: What have been the benefits of writing about your experiences?
Pam: For most of my life creativity wasn't on my radar, then through the Recovery Café I heard about PWA. I was terrified to take a class; I didn't feel good enough and was certain they wouldn't want me. Well, I found the courage and signed up for a class and it changed my life. It has given me confidence to step out into the world in other ways, to feel worthy, like I belong.

Pallet: How long have you been writing poetry?
Pam: PWA was where I began writing poetry; it has helped me process my life/trauma in an indirect way, which in a lot of ways has been more effective than any therapy I ever had.

Pallet: How long were you without a home? 
Pam: Aside from couch surfing, I experienced 'houselessness' two different times for a total of about a year. Once I lived out of my car and the other time I lived in a tent while I was waiting to be approved for housing.

 

RELATED POSTS:
Putting people before profit: Why we’re a Social Purpose Company
New Pallet shelter village opens in Burlington, Washington
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