A Closer Look

A monthly in-depth look at issues affecting people experiencing homelessness and the broader Health Care for the Homeless community

The Power of Love — The HCH Community’s Greatest Advocacy Tool

By Barbara DiPietro, PhD, Senior Director of Policy

“If all public policy was created in the spirit of love, we would not have to worry about unemployment, homelessness, schools failing to teach children, or addiction.”

bell hooks, All About Love (2021)

Especially challenging times are upon us. Next year will be a difficult one for public policy due to the super-charged political environment and the upcoming elections in a polarized society coupled with the high levels of burnout and moral injury experienced by many providing health and human services to people experiencing homelessness.

Advocacy counters burnout. Advocacy may be what saves us! A recent study on burnout found that advocacy serves as a counterbalance to burnout. The conclusion states: “Policy-level interventions which increase funding to safety-net healthcare systems to bolster existing resources and staffing, create peer-support and wellness programs, and support advocacy efforts may mitigate burnout.” When we advocate, we tell our truth and we share our power. We engage with policymakers so they do their job to advance structural solutions to our problems. Not only is this a fundamental aspect of democracy, it’s also a matter of justice. If we are not advocating for our public policies to reflect our values, who will? Our voice has never been more important.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

— Dr. Cornel West

HCH is Love. The capacity for love in the HCH Community is boundless. The act of providing health care enables some of the most intimate—and sacred—connections to other human beings. But our love goes beyond simply providing care: One of the core tenets to this work is the belief in the inherent dignity and value of human beings. Our community experiences burnout and moral injury because we care, because we love—and because we know it doesn’t have to be like this. We see how homelessness and suffering are preventable, yet our policymakers continue to advance policies that increase poverty, illness, and homelessness over constructive solutions. Yes, our heart and our spirit aches with the wrongness of it all. However, the genuine love among us in the HCH community—people experiencing homelessness, clinicians and other service providers, administrators, advocates – keeps us strong and determined. 

Love is our community’s greatest advocacy tool. Our love for each other and our sense of justice are strongly intertwined. Advancing human rights and demanding respect and dignity for others are core values—rooted in love—that drive our direct care services as well as our commitment to advocacy. It is also our love that uniquely positions us to engage policymakers (even those directly opposed to our values) and facilitate transformative change. Our love bonds us as a community and becomes our key strength—as well as our greatest advocacy tool. There is no backing down from love. 

“Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For this holiday season, I hope you are able to rest and rejuvenate—and prepare to put Love into Action in 2024 with your advocacy.

Best wishes for a healthy holiday,

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