Friday, October 02, 2015

A Peer Mentor's Opportunity to Give Back Through Work

Upon receiving a new position, at a new job, I was given the opportunity to do street outreach with the YBR program. Yellow Brick Road, a hidden treasure within the Portland Metro Area. I was unaware that a program like this even existed, and the moment I was told that I would do weekly walks on the streets of Downtown Portland to give out first aid and hygiene supplies, I was beguiled.


Growing up, my mum went in and out of homelessness. There were periods where I didn’t see her and just assumed she was either in a treatment facility, or homeless and too preoccupied to visit. At one point, she even lived in a tent in my yard; it lasted about two years. As a kid and pre-teen, I didn’t really understand homelessness, and in fact, I sort of just glossed over it. I had become desensitized to the idea since my mum had survived so many years on the streets herself. It was something that I second-handedly was experiencing, not personally, but I was still a bystander.


I think, personally, I have a lot of feelings surrounding homelessness. If I have the money to buy someone a sandwich, or give them a bus ticket, or even a sweatshirt/hat, I will, without hesitation. If I could provide housing to each and every person, I would. Seeing everything that my mum went through, and all of her struggles really made a lasting impression on me. So here I am. I was blindly thrown into an opportunity that I would forever be grateful for. If I would have discovered Yellow Brick Road prior to this position, I would have—in a heartbeat— taken up the opportunity.


Through doing this work, I have received a plethora of positive responses from people. I have been able to provide some basic essentials for humans who need it most. It has been an incredibly empowering and rewarding opportunity to be able to do this. Spreading kindness through q-tips and socks one night at a time. The Yellow Brick Road program will forever hold a place in my heart.


Peer Mentor, Elliott

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