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An Inseparable Pair

While Hugh is on the road today, we are reprinting this month’s newsletter from him. To receive your own copy in your inbox each month, please click here. Thanks and peace, Jasmin


Her name is Janice, and I’ve known her for years. She’s in her mid-sixties, was married once, and then wasn’t. Janice lost custody of their daughter to his family, who had a lot more money than she did, and they kept her daughter away. She got a small job that paid for a small apartment. Here she drank tea, painted pictures, and listened to jazz when she wasn’t at her job. And she avoided people, because she wasn’t going to be hurt again.

Her apartment was gentrified, and she had to move out when the rent tripled. With the loss of stability, she lost the job. She eventually ended up on the streets, where she could keep her distance from people.

This spring, something shifted. Janice got a small terrier named Frank. Frank’s provenance is sketchy – all she says is that he chose her. And if you saw them together, you would believe it – Janice and Frank are inseparable.

Janice and Frank also started coming to Love Wins to hang out with us. She would sit in the smoking area outside, and Frank would sit at her feet. People would come up and pet Frank, and they would talk to Janice. On good days she would make conversation. On bad days she would snap and tell people to leave them alone.

She became something of a cranky grandmother for the kids that come through. She would tell the teenage moms what they were doing wrong, and sometimes, was even nice about it. To see her play with the kids would have broken your heart. She was experiencing a nostalgia for a past she never got to have.

Around the end of summer, she wanted to talk to me.

“I’m afraid, Hugh. I care about all these kids and their moms. And I am afraid because I know they will disappear too, and then I will hurt again. And I am really tired of hurting. So, I think I am going to take Frank and hit the road.”

She didn’t come back the next day.

But then I recently saw her sitting on the steps of the museum, reading a library book in the glow of the streetlights. It was around suppertime, and it was dark outside. I walked over and asked if I could sit with her. There was no sign of Frank.

“Frank is with a friend, who’s watching him for me. I’m in a program at the shelter now.”

I must have looked shocked because she laughed.

“Hugh, I think something is wrong with me. I’ve met some people, and I don’t hate them. I even met another woman at the shelter, and we are thinking about getting an apartment together. A roommate! Can you believe that?”

It was my turn to laugh. I asked what happened.

“Well, Hugh. I’m not getting any younger. And if something happens to me, who’s going to take care of Frank? And I remembered what you said – that keeping people out meant I wouldn’t get hurt, but it also meant I missed out on being loved. And I let Frank in, and that worked out okay.

So I am trying. I am trying real hard. And sometimes, I even find myself forgetting that it’s hard.”

Thanksgiving is next week. And this has been a hard year for us here at Love Wins, but a good year, too. We have gotten a whole new team of employees and volunteers. We have had people we care about die and seen people like Janice find hope. And I watched a mutt melt a hardened woman’s heart and give her a reason to try again.

And for that, I am thankful.

Winter is Hell

I walked in the office the other day and Craig, one of our most seasoned volunteers, was talking to the paid staff. I caught the tail end of the conversation.

“Y’all just don’t know. Winter is coming. It’s bad around here in the wintertime. Y’all just don’t know. Winter is coming, and it ain’t no joke.”

Craig told me, “They don’t know what it means to work here in the winter, Hugh, and I was trying to tell them. It’s no joke around here in the winter. Winter is hard.”

I agreed. Winter is hell.

Don’t get me wrong – this work is stressful. Always. The problems our community faces year-round are exasperating, and I’m not trying to diminish them. But winter is its own special kind of hell.

The most senior person currently on staff at Love Wins (other than myself) began near the end of March. We have two other employees that have started more recently than her. They’re all great, and I am lucky to work with them.

But none of them have known what it is to do this work in the wintertime.

So I tried to explain.

To start with, my people die in the wintertime. Not a winter goes by that we don’t lose someone to the cold temperatures, to hypothermia, or to suicide. Then there are the random accidents, like trees falling on tents or people getting hit by cars. The deaths are that much more horrible, however, in that people are less active, so sometimes bodies aren’t found for days. Last year, we lost three folks we all knew.

Just because you are homeless doesn’t mean you are immune to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Thedepression-20195_640 lack of sunshine, the grey days and the frequent rain affect us all. Riding out the storm in a damp tent, in the dark, in the cold, does nothing to improve your mood.

Being homeless in the wintertime means watching the weather like a hawk – when it is expected to get below freezing overnight, they open the shelters to everyone, so you are at least guaranteed a warm safe space to try to sleep. On those nights it means lining up outside the shelters, standing in the cold until the regular shelter guests have finished their evening meal. It also means the bitter disappointment you feel when the overnight temperature isn’t expected to get below 35 degrees, because there is every bit as real a chance of dying in 35 degree weather as there is 32 degree weather.

It’s hard for our community, but it’s hard for us, too.

In the wintertime, you know the harsh reality of closing time, when it is 38 degrees outside, there is a slight drizzle, and it’s five o’clock. Closing time. It’s near dark outside, and you have to tell people with no place to go that they cannot stay here. You give hugs at the door, lock the door behind them as they leave, and you get in your car. You turn the heater on and drive past the sad parade of your friends as they walk soddenly to the bus stop. You go home to your warm house and hot meal.

You feel horrible when guests ask about your Thanksgiving plans, and you tell them about the big meal at your family’s house. You describe the warm embrace of family and the expectancy of the love you will feel. When you ask what they are doing, they tell you about the turkey dinner at the mission they are going to. They hope to take a bag lunch home with them.

You feel worse when you realize that they don’t feel bad about that conversation.

They are really happy for you.

The donations that come in when it is cold save lives – the hats and coats and gloves are so needed and so appreciated. However, we have no storage for them, so they pile up everywhere there is a horizontal surface. For about three months our open floor plan office will look like a hoarder’s paradise, with boxes stacked high and little pathways cut through the clutter.

The normal calm of community melts away, too, when the guests are constantly clamoring for warm things, and you cease to be a builder of community and instead become a dispenser of goods.

You try not to think that the eight hours you were open, eight hours that you wanted to end so you could go home…those were the best eight hours they were going to have.

Winter is coming, y’all. And it ain’t no joke.

Barbecue, Sweet Tea And Fear

"Hog Heaven" Plate
On Thursday, Charlie came in my office.

“Mr. Hugh – you lived in Memphis, right?”

Let me jump in here and tell you that I hate titles, especially when they are applied to me. I have also come to realize that people want to show respect to me and the rest of the staff here, so however much it makes me cringe, I get called Pastor Hugh, Pastor, Mr. Hugh and the like all day long. I don’t try to stop them anymore.

I tell him I lived in Memphis for 13 years.

“I was watching the food network on TV the other day – they had it on in the dayroom at the shelter – and they had a show about barbecue, and they talked a lot about Memphis. Is the barbecue really that good there?”

I told him it really, really was – that dry rubbed ribs were amazing, and the barbecue chicken at the Cozy Corner in Memphis was the best chicken I had ever had, anywhere.

“Is there any place around here that serves barbecue like that, Mr. Hugh?”

I should probably mention that, like Memphis, North Carolina is a place of barbecue snobs. Here in Eastern North Carolina they don’t use a red sauce on their pulled pork like they do in Memphis, but instead use this sort of vinegar pepper sauce. It isn’t bad, per se. It just doesn’t taste like barbecue.

I told him that there was one place I had found in North Raleigh that served dry rub ribs. It wasn’t the best ribs I had ever had, and in Memphis you would get laughed at for suggesting them. They were decent enough though, and since they were the only dry ribs to be had in this town, I ate there five or six times a year.

“Mr. Hugh, I want to take you there for lunch. To say thank you for all you put up with.”

Charlie lives at the shelter sometimes, and on the streets sometimes and in motels sometimes. He works pretty regular, but on the lower end of the labor scale. Three days of bad weather will put him out of work and back on the streets.

It’s right here you see the difference between what we do and what agencies that work with people who are homeless do. We are a community, first and foremost. Yes, people get housed as a result of our work, and hundreds of meals are shared each week and tons of clothing are distributed and all of that, but it’s all a byproduct of community. The community is the real product – everything else is a side effect.

And when someone in your community wants to share something with you to show how much they care about you, you take it, even if you know it is a stretch for them financially. Especially if you know it is a stretch for them. Because the cost is part of the gift.

So, I said yes, and plans were made. Danny overheard us and told Charlie he wanted in on this. They decided they would split the cost of my lunch. Like a lot of people of African descent, Danny doesn’t eat pork, but he had heard me talking about chicken and got excited.

At 11:30, we piled in the car and headed north in search of dry rub ribs, tender chicken and good conversation. On the way there, we talked about my wife’s recovery and Danny’s time in Vietnam. I answered Charlie’s questions about Mississippi and Memphis and he asked me if it was a sin for him to notice that the most beautiful women he had ever seen lived in the South. I told him I hoped not, because I had noticed it too. He thought that was hilarious.

We got there and listened to the blues over the speakers while we ate ribs and chicken and seasoned fries and drank copious amounts of sweet tea. They bantered with our server Rodney, who was in his late fifties and African American. When Rodney left, Charlie, who is in his late twenties, asked if I thought Rodney made good money, since Rodney was wearing a tie.

The two of them raved over the food, and there was a lot of laughter and talking smack. When the check came, they snatched it from me and counted out their cash. The bill came to $46, and they paid it with a lot of ones and fives, but they paid it. I left the tip. They fought about that, but I told them that the food was their gift to me, and the tip was my gift to them. After some discussion between themselves, they accepted the logic of this and we piled back in the car for the trip home.

In the car, Charlie groaned, and Danny kidded him that he ate too much. Charlie said, ‘Man, the food was so good. And there was so much of it. And for a minute, I forgot all about being homeless, and being out of work and being scared and all of that. I ate like a king in there. For a minute, I felt like a king.”

In the Christian tradition, we believe that a meal is central to our story – that on the night Jesus was to be arrested, he was so terrified that he would sweat drops of blood. It was then that he chose to have one last meal with his friends.

We Christians call that meal a sacrament – which just means it’s a way to access the sacred. When we gather around the table with friends, our fears seem less scary and the Divine seems closer.  Sometimes that happens with bread and wine in a sanctuary. And sometimes it can happen with dry rubbed ribs and sweet tea in a chain restaurant.

Best Days and Worst Days

Mixed emotions
It never gets easier to watch beautiful things and horrible things happen to the same people. That we get to see both sides is a gift, one that comes with a commitment to relationship and the long-term.

I get accused of being a dark writer about this work, of not sharing enough of the good things that happen here. I disagree. I am committed to telling you the truth. And the truth is, whether someone is a success story or a failure story in this work often depends on where you stop the story.

In 2011, I performed Danny and Shelia’s wedding. It was a beautiful day, in a church, with a wedding dress, a cake, dancing and laughter. Thanks to some donors, they had a great three day honeymoon in a local Hilton, with the biggest bed Shelia had ever seen.

And then I picked them up and drove them back to the tent where they lived in the woods behind the Walmart. And cried all the way home.

If I hadn’t told you the last paragraph, it is a happy story. If I do, it is a sad one. Both of them are true. And Danny and Shelia experienced both of them. As people in their life, we experienced both of them. But if you are on a mission trip, say, you might only get to experience one of them, and that would color your experience, your story about people who are experiencing homelessness, and all of that.

So I will tell you the truth – some days are beautiful. And some days are gut-wrenching. And somedays, it’s the same day.

Yesterday, Danny and Shelia came by the Hospitality House. It was the first time I have seen them in four years. They moved away for a job opportunity in Texas, where life was good. Danny had a good job, they had a decent apartment. And then Danny had a stroke. And another one. And a total of five in one year.

They lost the job. And the apartment. They moved in with friends, but his being in a wheelchair was too much for them to handle. Eventually, they decided the only place they had community and people was back here in Raleigh. So they came back here – only now he is 40 pounds lighter and walking with a walker.

So yesterday, was a good day – I saw my friends, they brought me up to date, I showed them around the hospitality house. The last time they were in Raleigh, Love Wins didn’t even have a hospitality house. There was laughter and tears and stories. It was a good day.

And then there is the reality that they had no place to stay last night. The shelters were full. He is on a walker and medically frail. And at the end of the day, they hugged me and shuffled away, to find a dry place to sleep for the night, and told me they would see me this weekend at the Oak City Outreach Center.

See? Yesterday was the worst day, too. And the best day. Same day. But if they can endure it, I guess I can, too. Because at least I get the choice. They don’t.

Winter is Coming… And We Need Your Help

It is now fall, and all the familiar signs are there – pumpkin spice everything is showing up in cafe’s, the sweaters are coming out of the back of the closet and we are getting asked for blankets here at the Hospitality House.

It might not seem that cool yet for those of us who sleep inside, with heat and hot showers and have warm cars to get into. But if you sleep outside, a warm blanket can make all the difference in getting a night’s sleep or not.

We don’t have the space to store these things all year, and we don’t have the resources to take people to the store when they need a blanket. What we need is your help to make sure we have these things for our guests as the weather turns cooler.

Below I have listed some of the things we need right now, or will need soon. The links take you to Amazon, where you can see representative pictures.

If you are able to help us with any of this – Thank You so much! If you personally aren’t able to elp, perhaps your book club, office or Sunday School class could take up a collection of these items to help us out. We would really appreciate it, and you would be helping far more than you know.

Please email Madeline to arrange a drop-off time. You can also mail your donations to: Love Wins Ministries P.O. Box 28837 Raleigh, NC 27611

I Appreciate You

Cloud Appreciation Society
I don’t know how it started. But it did, and now, it’s a “thing”.

At least once a day, sometimes many times a day, I tell my coworkers, “I appreciate you”. And they do the same thing to me. It isn’t policy or anything, like saying “My Pleasure” at Chik-fil-a, but it happens all the same.

Example: Thursday afternoon was frantic. There was a couple of hyperactive kids running around the hospitality house. We had two different families that had nowhere to sleep for the night and was asking us to help them, and one of the families had two young children.   We had some 30 people hanging out at the Hospitality House. And Madeline, our operations manager, was out of the office.

And it was just frantic. Elizabeth was calling motels and bus stations. I was fielding questions. Thursday is also the day we take folks to the showers, so they were trickling back in as well.

Around 4:50, it all settled down. Elizabeth and I both sort of collapsed at our desks and sighed.

I’m a big believer in affirmation, so I looked in my desk drawer and found a Starbucks gift card with a few bucks on it.

“Lizzie – here you go. Treat yourself to something nice on the way home. I know it was a hard afternoon. You deserve it.”

She grinned, and said, “Thanks Hugh. I appreciate you.”

I appreciate you. It seems so simple to say, but we seldom hear it from others. It isn’t the same as saying thank you, although we often use it that way here. It says that you are appreciated, not just the thing you did. You don’t have to do great things to be appreciated – you just have to exist.

It has filtered itself into our conversations with our guests, too. Yesterday, Michael told me he appreciated me, right after he asked about my wife’s health. He. Appreciated. Me. I know pastors that have went their whole career and never been told they were appreciated by a congregant.

I have been thinking a lot about self-care lately, and telling people who work with me that I appreciate them is definitely an act of self-care, both for me and for them. It reminds me that I am not the savior of the world, that we are interdependent and that I can’t do this work by myself. And it tells them that while it is true that we can’t afford to pay them lavish, or even average, salaries and there is no Love Wins retirement plan, their work matters – not just to the people who benefit from it but to the people they do it with.

When was the last time you were appreciated? That someone went out of their way to tell you that you were valued? When was the last time you truly appreciated someone? Not something they did – that’s easy. But you appreciate them? If so, tell them.

Doing The Work

Heart Of A Man
I was talking to a friend the other day about how you avoid burnout in this work. It was a long discussion, and I don’t really know the answer. I know I haven’t yet reached burnout (although I have gotten close a few times) and I do a lot of things to prevent it from happening. I suspect some of these activities are wasted effort, but since I don’t know which ones, I do them all and hope for the best.

The thing is, I think a lot of burnout comes from our attachment to outcomes over which we have no control. In my own work, I have helped Steve move into a new place to live seven times. I have also helped him move out eight times – he currently lives in a motel, where he pays the daily bill by working when he can, and panhandling when he can’t.

If I believed I had somehow failed Steve because I have known him for eight years and he is still housing vulnerable, then all sorts of existential questions begin to set in. Why am I here? Is my work valuable? Am I a fraud? Why should anyone listen to me? Should I find another job? Why did I ever quit that good job I had before?

But the reality is, there are lots of reasons he isn’t successful in making the transition from homeless to housed that have nothing whatsoever to do with me and my work. He has fought addiction most of his life, having gotten drunk for the first time when he was 12, with his father. That last sentence probably tells you all you need to know about his family dynamic growing up, and he dropped out of school when he was in the 9th grade because of frustration around his learning disability.

None of that had anything to do with me. Or has anything to do with me now. And no matter how much I love Steve, I can’t make those problems go away or eliminate their impact on his life. In other words, his failure to thrive in the world he lives in isn’t my fault, and eliminating all of his problems isn’t my job. Which is good, because I have zero control over any of those things, or, for that matter, over Steve.

The only thing I do, in fact, have control over is me, and what I do, or don’t do. This isn’t a prescription for slacking off – I believe in working really hard, and while I don’t believe I can guarantee I will win, I do believe I can deserve to. If I fail, it won’t be because I didn’t do the work.

But once you have done the work, you are off the hook. You have done all you can, and the rest is up to chance, God and, in this case, Steve. What happens next is no reflection on you at all – because you did the work.

When I was in sales ages ago, I learned I couldn’t control how many people bought things from me, but I could control how may appointments I would set up for the week, knowing that if I tried to sell things to enough people, I would eventually sell something to someone.

In other words, I had control over the inputs (making appointments) and not over the outputs (making sales). Sadly, almost all salespeople tie their self-worth to the outputs, and thus give control of their emotional wellbeing to things over which they have no control.

This is a recipe for disaster, and is akin to being pecked to death by ducks.

So, I focus on inputs. In my work, those are things like showing up. Listening. Preaching. Visiting people in jail or the hospital. Advocating for people like Steve. If I do those things, I deserve to win, even if I don’t, and I deserve to feel good about my life and my work – regardless of what happens next.

Because as I have said before: Sometimes, people don’t get better. Sometimes, people sabotage themselves. Sometimes, circumstances beyond your control work to destroy months or years of your work. But none of that should matter to you or affect your mental health – if you did the work.

You Have to Stick Around


One side-effect of this work is that you seldom see people at their best. If you are friends with people who don’t have a lot of resources, you are most likely to get called when they need your resources. In other words, when things have hit the fan.

This can serve to make you a bit cynical, if you don’t watch it. But the reality is, things generally turn around – if you are in it for the long haul. On any given week, our little community looks like a hot mess. But over the long haul, we are doing great.

Take this summer, for instance:

We lost some funding, and put out a cry for help and then went on to build a financial reserve. We have lost employees unexpectedly and then hired new ones, who brought new gifts and resources. My wife went on the heart transplant list, and then underwent a heart transplant, and is now on the road to full recovery. While that was happening, I was away from the office for three weeks, and the staff and volunteers covered it like a champ.

It happens individually, too. If you looked at Fred back in the spring, you would have seen someone who was trying to quit drinking, and failing. But if you have been his friend for the last six months, you would see the trajectory upwards, and then been there for his going into rehab and gotten the letters he wrote you and met him at the door when he got out and driven him to the halfway house where he now lives, sober and, for the first time in years, truly happy.

But you wouldn’t know that if you only saw him for the one day, back in the springtime. One of the things we push back most with the groups that want to volunteer with us is their desire for a one-off event. They want to bring a bunch of teenagers out, have them meet some people who are homeless, paint a hallway or pull weeds from our garden and then move on to the next service project, at the next organization, with the next vulnerable population.

And while we do need the hallway painted and the weeds pulled, our people are not helpless, and are fully capable of pulling their own damn weeds. What they do not have is your resources, your networks and your friendship. And they need those, desperately, to have any future beyond mere existence.

But more than that, if you only see them on that one day, you don’t get the full picture. You would see Fred on the day he was struggling with alcohol, and not the day he graduated rehab. You might meet Tonya the day she was bruised from her fight with her boyfriend, and not the day she came back from court, victorious, restraining order in hand. You might see the fight that breaks out because of something that happened elsewhere, but you wouldn’t be around for the reconciliation that happens later.

In Christian language, you might be there for the death, but miss out on the resurrection. Or worse yet, only see the resurrection and not realize what it cost.

The surest cure to cynicism I know is to stick around. Because none of us should be defined by our worst day, and good things happen, and lots of stories have happy endings – especially if you don’t stop the story too soon.

Thank You From Hugh

thank you

The last two and a half weeks have been… interesting.

To bring you up to date – my wife was on the heart transplant list – and on the 12th of this month, we got the call. I was in a meeting with Madeline when the call came in. Within 15 minutes, I had notified the staff, packed my briefcase and left the office to take my wife to the hospital.

I have been there a total of two hours in the last 16 days.

And yet, nothing stopped.

We still functioned as a place of hospitality, where, as Henri Nouwen put it, “a stranger could become a friend”. We still shared breakfast with several hundred people every Saturday and Sunday at the Oak City Outreach Center. We went to court with people, we listened to stories, put people in touch with resources, held chapel services, provided reassurance, served countless pots of coffee, went through pounds of peanut butter, handed out socks, and all round built community.

I am the first person to tell you that none of this happened because I am a great leader, or because we have built redundancy into the system or because we had planned this out.

It happened because of the community we have spent more than 8 years building.

It happened because people filled in, because guests who come to our hospitality house are able to contribute, it happened because volunteers stepped up and people rose to the occasion. I didn’t build this community – I merely created a place where it can happen.

That is the thing about community – I don’t really think you can purposefully build it. I think you create a place for it to happen, you engineer ways to make it easier to happen and you provide a framework for it to happen. And then, you watch it happen.

You don’t dig a well when you are thirsty, and the best time to decide to be part of a community is ten years ago. The second best time is now.

In case you are wondering – my wife is doing great! She is at home, walking around and making plans for after her stiches are out. I return to work fulltime Monday, and am already dreading opening my inbox. My amazing staff is resting up from an intense 16 days and gearing up for Monday.

For all of you who stepped in, who volunteered, who sent cards, notes and emails, who prayed for us, and held us near to your hearts – Thank you.

The Core Values of Love Wins Ministries

278-365: Core values

When I get called in to work with other groups and organizations, one of my first questions is: “Tell me about why you do this work. What are your core values?”

I tell them then that core values are your bedrock reasons for doing things – they are the “why” of how you act the way you do. People have them, and organizations have them.  For example: A corporation may decide to give expectant mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave – which is better than average here in the USA. That is the “what”. But their core value of, “We value our employees, and want them to thrive in all areas of their life” is “why” they do that.

The philosopher Nietzsche said that if your reason for doing something was strong enough, you could endure any means to accomplish it. Admittedly, he was using hyperbole, but the point remains – knowing why you are doing something makes it easier to go on when things are hard.

And there are times this work is hard. And during those hard times, if you don’t know why you are doing this work, you will fail, and burn yourself out and then nothing changes – at least not for the better.

Since we get asked a lot about why we do this work, I thought I would share our core values with you. These are the values that inform our work, and they guide our decision making. When we make a decision, we run it against the Core Values to see if it is consistent with what we believe and aspire to as an organization. And if it isn’t, we scrap it.

While I have listed them in a linear fashion, they are more properly understood as self-reinforcing, feeding into each other, and building on each other.

The Core Values of Love Wins Ministries


We invite people to come into our lives and our spaces, not to convert them to our side or to change them, but to create free space where we can become friends with each other based on who we each are – not who we wish they were. Hospitality means creating spaces for people to be themselves.


Homelessness is, at its core, about relationships. It is the people who give our lives shape and meaning, and nobody has their best day alone. The relationships we strive to achieve must be real, based on the realities of who people are, and not agenda driven, or based upon who we wish they were.

Downward Bias

History has taught us that when there are two groups of people, policies and decisions tend to bias upward, benefiting the group in power. The people we work among have often been on the wrong end of this power dynamic, so we seek to bias downward whenever possible. Asking ourselves, “Does this benefit the people in our community, or just the people in power?” is a useful decision-making filter.


Grace is the decision to forgive people in advance of their being proved worthy of it. Forgiving them in advance of their being proved worthy of the forgiveness creates space for people to live into being their best selves. Grace is also aspirational – we extend grace because we wish to be recipients of it.

Bearing Witness

No one is voiceless, but there are voices that cannot be heard because the rest of us will not be quiet. Therefore, we will use our privilege and platform to bear witness to the goodness we see, the hope we encounter and the pain we share, and amplify the voices of those who cannot be heard. By doing this work in public, we seek to stoke the imagination of the watching world about the sort of goodness that is possible.


Agency is the right of people to exert power in their own lives. It is a fundamental human right, and to the extent we take away that right, we dehumanize them. People get to make their own decisions, they have the power to choose. Honoring their agency means honoring their choices, even when that is not the decision we would have made for them.


Most outreach work is predicated on the idea that “we” can meet “their” needs. We believe that we can meet each other’s needs, if we are willing to enter into a relationship based on the belief that we all have inherent value and worth. Mutuality involves seeing people as your peer and not as students to be taught or children to be monitored.

* * *

Those are our Core Values, along with a bit of explanatory text. Over the next few months, I will write full length posts on each Core Value, in order to provide more context and examples of how they work.

NB: There are people who will tell us they are upset that our Core Values are not religious in nature: We would say that is to misunderstand them. We would argue they are rooted in the Christian tradition, but are not exclusive to it. In order for them to be understood by the widest range of people, we have explained them secularly.