Home Commentary Good Sam and Another Way ‘Begin Again’

Good Sam and Another Way ‘Begin Again’

By Julie Bond, Rick DeAngelis, and Ken Russell

Recently our community experienced an incident of violence at the Montpelier Transit Center that occurred during a time when the Good Samaritan Haven staffs a seasonal warming space for folks to get out of the cold, receive a meal, and register for a bed at the emergency overflow shelter run by our community partner, Another Way. 

This particular incident led to the stabbing of our Good Sam colleague by a member of the public who did not have prior ties to the unsheltered community that we serve. Nevertheless, violent events in close proximity to those experiencing homelessness often become intermingled or associated with them. Our hope is that community members work to disentangle those associations. We live in a society in which violence and aggressive reactivity is on the upswing as a result of many, many factors, often creating a level of fear and distrust that gets exacerbated when events like this occur.

We would like to thank the central Vermont community, our partners, colleagues, and neighbors for the incredible outpouring of support and well wishes that were extended to our colleague, his family, and the Good Sam and Another Way teams. We are grateful and happy to report that our colleague is making a steady recovery and has returned home to continue a more extensive healing process. There is a palpable energy that comes from the good will and outpouring of love that we extend to one another. We believe this is what allows us each to transcend fear and confusion, and it reminds us that we are all one community. What affects one of us, affects all of us.

Inevitably, the way in which we do our work is clarified through incidents such as this. And the provision of emergency shelter carries on 24/7, 365 days a year, even if certain elements have been put on pause in order to regroup. And so with continued commitment, in borrowing from the Buddhist perspective, we “begin again.”

To begin again is part of being human, it’s part of living in community. Our lives are anything but linear — they spiral, just like so many incredible patterns in nature, through precise and mysterious sacred mathematics. These patterns include a patchwork of positive and negative events.

Every day and over long periods of time, we return again to activities, relationships, practices — as if like new. Yet, also with a deeper understanding and maturity than before. The hope is that when we “begin again,” an experience is more nuanced and meaningful. 

Sometimes when we begin again, it is because something has ended, or something has broken, and we must literally or figuratively pick up the pieces. Yet in picking up the pieces, we may find the makings of a very special map leading us forward. 

One example of picking up the pieces comes from the ancient Japanese philosophy called Kitsungi. Kitsungi includes the art of reassembling pieces of pottery after they have shattered, using gold and lacquer to form even stronger bonds and resulting in unique patterns and golden pathways on the reimagined piece. It is a beautiful way for an object to begin again from brokenness. Likewise, embracing our own ‘cracks’ or scars as part of our own lived experiences, lifting up the unique imperfections as the honored and meandering paths of the journey — and not the end of the story — is a core understanding of the Kitsungi philosophy. Again and again, we spiral, we return, move away, come back, and begin again. 

It’s important to us that our work serving those experiencing homelessness is not siloed or enshrouded in myth or misinformation. Homelessness can, in fact, happen to anyone. Good Sam will continue to advocate for the things that prevent both homelessness and violence in our communities for everyone: affordable housing, community-based housing, supportive housing models, healthcare, well-funded social services, recovery support, and living wages for all.

We also want to lift up the daily efforts of all of the frontline shelter staff members who work tirelessly, and often with the least amount of resources, in the social service or housing fields to tend to the cracks in our guests’ cups. They are committed to helping mend fissures and cracks with care, encouragement, and a sense of belonging at the shelters, motels, and on the streets. 

We invite you to join us as we continue to provide care and safe haven to our most vulnerable neighbors — many hands make lighter work. Join us as we envision and experiment with new models to address the housing crisis in our communities. Join us as we ‘begin again’ and again and again in love and not fear.

This path we’re on together is not made of perfection — it’s made of intention. May we each begin again in hope and love. 

Julie Bond and Rick DeAngelis are Co-Directors of Good Samaritan Haven. Ken Russell is the Executive Director of Another Way.