|By Hannah Stutts: |
There are some dates that never leave your memory–your partner’s birthday, wedding anniversaries, the day a loved one has passed. February 18, 2021, is one of those dates for me but it marks a very different moment in time. It’s the date that began the eviction of the 200-plus individuals living in what became known as the North End encampment.
At the time I was working for Roof Above, driving daily past the tents of our clients, whom we lovingly call “Neighbors.” The piles of their belongings stacked high around their tents, barrels burning pallet wood, music playing loudly (always music, always loud). I was directing the team known at the time as Housing Navigation Unsheltered, meaning the people living in this camp in those many tents were the people we served and cared for. It pivoted our work in so many ways we could never have anticipated and changed my life forever.
There are moments from the time the encampment existed I’d prefer to forget: Fights and overdoses. Severe mental health crises and domestic violence. And yet there was beauty that lived there. So much beauty. How many people are welcomed to their workplace daily with loving greetings from people living just outside the gates of their office?
Who can say they had the pleasure to dance on the sidewalk to music with neighbors whose lives were full of more trauma and complexity than most of us will ever know, but still could somehow find a reason to dance? I can.