One of the fun parts about this time of year is how it gives us all the freedom to access the land of make believe that most of us have long forgotten. In all of our adulting, most of us have lost our sense of awe at life’s more simple pleasures like getting to dress up in fun costumes and getting candy on Halloween. The old movies featuring scary figures like vampires, mad scientists, and zombies that used to evoke enough fear to keep us awake at night now merely amuse us. Our minds have filled in the blanks, so to speak, and what used to be one of the most magical parts of life no longer holds the same fascination.
However, there are still scary things lurking in the shadows of our agencies and today, we are going to shine a light on the things that may be going “bump in the night” at your PHA.
“No man knows until he experiences it, what it is like to feel his own life-blood drawn away…” – Dracula
Outdated systems, lack of funding… any of these things, or any of a hundred others, could be draining your agency and making you a lifeless entity. Most of the time, we are aware of the issue and understand the need for changes and improvements, but we are unable to do anything about it because we feel helpless.
Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster
“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!” – Frankenstein’s Monster
Many of our agency staff start off in the business of affordable housing with open hearts and a core desire to help those in need. As we have seen time and time again though, the monster of apathy sneaks in and steals this pure desire of a life in service to others. The result is tired people who have seen too much and feel defenseless against the onslaught of so much need and negativity. This, in turn, creates a harsh environment filled with fear and hopelessness… both on the part of the staff and the families.
“Eyewitnesses say they are ordinary-looking people. Some say they appear to be in a kind of trance. Others describe them as being misshapen monsters.” – Night of the Living Dead
How do we view those we are serving? Do we see them as people? Or are we approaching them as creatures that have been misshapen by their life experiences? We have all seen the participant in our office who looks like they are barely hanging on… and oftentimes that is likely the case. These families are bracing themselves for what they expect to encounter. We must ensure our interactions with our families, no matter how small, are opportunities to connect with the humanity in each of them.
Don’t allow your agency to be paralyzed or ineffective due to fear. The key to combatting these monsters that lurk in the shadows is two-fold:
1. Be Aware.
You must be willing to face the monster to defeat it. You can’t hide from it, run from it, or pretend it doesn’t really exist. And worst of all, you cannot make friends with the monsters. They don’t want to be your friend, and they don’t work well with others. If ignored, these monsters will become more and more destructive until you are forced to deal with them one way or another. Take advantage of the upper hand and face them square on. Be specific about what kind of monster you are facing, and then…
2. Be Armed.
Every scary movie ever has that one person who goes off by themselves and walks right into the trap of the bad guy. We can all see it coming a mile away. Don’t be that person. Ask for help.
That could look like any number of options, including community partnerships or a change in your policies and procedures. Our personal favorite option is hiring a consulting firm, like AMA Consulting Group (cheap plug), to help you strategize and arm your agency. AMA has several tools, resources, and services available that have been carefully developed to assist you in all the areas you need it most. But either way, be sure you are armed and ready for your fight. Get the tools you need, find the resources, ask for help!
Turn on the light
For those of us in the trenches of affordable housing, we have seen the real monsters of poverty, hunger, and desperation. These fearsome creatures that prey on the people who walk through our doors have become far scarier and more real to us than all the imaginary monsters under our beds. When we were kids, the answer to our fear of monsters was simply to turn on the light, and the answer to the monsters we face today is the same. Only now, you are the light.