Being an Authentic Relocator

Mick Silvers, Partnership Coordinator

Read more about what it looks like to relocate to a community here.

“Jesus showed his love by becoming human and pitching his tent among us.” -Wayne Gordon & John Perkins

This quote comes from a book that the Partnership Coordinators are reading called, Making Neighborhoods Whole. This quote and chapter hit me really hard because of my current living situation and work environment. Working on Skid Row means that most of the people I live and work with are living in tents. Now, Wayne and John are just trying to show the importance of relocating to the communities we want to work alongside, but this got me thinking- am I a good relocator? I mean obviously Jesus is the ultimate example of a perfect relocator. How do I do my best to strive to be like Christ in this way?

First off, I need to make sure I am the one doing the relocating. To do my part of working alongside a community that I am not indiginous to means that I cannot be pushing the original community out. My thought cannot be “in order to fix this community, I need to get rid of the original community”. The goal is to work alongside the community so they want to change their neighborhood. If I relocate, and my actions cause the original community to want to move out then I am destroying the community. If I want a community that is like the one I grew up in- then I should just move back home.

If I move into a community thinking I know what they need, then I am once again not being a good relocator. I am the one that is new. I need to listen to the experts-the locals. Through listening to the locals, I can strive to become a local myself. I should be striving to become a part of the community. Their problems are my problems. The fact that people are experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, hunger, lack of medical needs, etc. in my neighborhood is my problem. We are experiencing homelessness. We are struggling with substance abuse. We are not being fed. We are not receiving the medical attention we deserve. There is no you, them, yours, or theirs, when you relocate to a new community.

The issues I was facing when I lived in Arkansas have now changed because I now live in Los Angeles. And my new neighborhood is Skid Row. So- Skid Row’s problems are now my problems. It is my personal responsibility as a contributing community member to work alongside others in my community to solve the problems of our neighborhood.

When I think about this I become so overwhelmed because I have no idea where to start. How am I going to do my part to help solve my neighborhood’s problems? The first step is to let the experts lead. The experts are the locals. These members of my community know what this community has been through. In my community they are the heartbeat of Skid Row. By letting them lead the renewal of our neighborhood, I can join in and give the resources and expertise I may have. Let the locals lead, and let the relocators (myself) serve. If I truly want to see change, then my personal opinion on how I think things should change does not matter. This is not about me. This is about our community. We need to work together to find a solution.