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We Have Traditions, Therefore We Are We


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By Angela Amos | FāVS News

During the penultimate week of the month, the staff at the Hearth discusses the next month’s calendar. Staff goes over what events are forthcoming and which classes are going to be taught.

Our Volunteer and Activities Coordinator holds much of the brain trust of traditions and their allotted seasons, the order of operations, and what materials and time are needed to ensure the event transpires with little to no hitches. Our long-term staff members understand the emotional bond our community, including our staff, has with our traditions.

This dedication to traditions is integral to building and strengthening any community. The trauma-informed service delivery model foregrounds the importance of traditions in whole-person, wraparound care. Both the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAHMSA) and the American Academy of Psychology echo this.

Traditions Anchor Us in Community

Traditions are part of personal and communal identity. They build shared experiences among participants and remind people they are part of something larger than themselves. It also gives participants reliable markers for the time passing.

The Hearth’s intentional engagement and cultivation of our traditions is part of our identity as a community. Our traditions have been built from our conception and the ways in which we celebrate them have been honed and transformed with the needs and wants of our community.

For example, our participants have a complicated and complex relationship with motherhood and Mother’s Day. Ignoring this would not benefit anyone, so the Hearth has worked to address the pain and possibility that day holds. This includes naming the pain and giving an avenue for it, providing a flexible and dynamic definition of motherhood, and sharing in the ways the community mothers each other and themselves. It is part self-reparenting, part catharsis, and part joy.   

The Hearth Traditions – Whimsical and Practical

We have several traditions like this. The winter holiday season is also a deeply lonely and painful time for those who have strained relationships with their families and communities of origin. Having a place to celebrate and share in traditions can be, and often is, a literal lifeline.

We have holiday-themed mad libs, caroling, a special meal, homemade cookies, a candle lighting ceremony, and gifts in new backpacks. The backpacks and their contents are gifted by community partners and have specific items for those who are housed and those who are unhoused. They range from practical, like rain ponchos and flashlights, to the fun and whimsical, like journals, coloring books, word games, and colorful pens.  

Not all celebrations are complex. Because play is the opposite of survival mode, we have celebrations that are fun for the sake of fun.

Celebrations That Feed the Soul

One such celebration is Spirit Week. Spirit Week, ending with Prom, was the idea of some younger staff members years ago. They remembered how fun it was to dress up and create costumes, so staff brought it to the community and they were all about it. Spirit week runs the gamut of sticker day, 80s hair day, talk like a pirate day, and similar fun that requires just what we have here and a willingness to be silly. Spirit week ends with prom. We have many dresses, or “fancy frocks,” as I have been told they are, and make up stations. We have a parade around the Hearth and dancing to prom-like music. It is a riot of colour and sound and is one of the most fun days we have.

Galentine’s Day came about from Leslie Knope’s famous celebration on Parks and Rec. Prior to this, it was Valentine’s Day. It was a fun day, but Galentine’s Day fits our community and our energy much more. This celebration involves pampering of our participants with manicures, make up, bingo, music, dancing, and sharing our love and appreciation for one another. Plus, how fun is it to say “Galentine’s Day?”

Halloween is full of decorating the Hearth and ourselves. There are cookies, a costume party and a dance. It is a day of fun and silliness, connection and joy.

I have been told that being unhoused is like one long, terrible day, broken up by a series of restless naps. To share these traditions is to break up the dreadful monotony and marks the seasons. Our Hearth traditions and celebrations ensure the We that we are is inclusive, flexible and ever expanding, grounded in each other and our shared memories. To that end, our monthly calendars are more than a schedule. They are promises from Us, to Us.

Angela Amos
Angela Amoshttps://help4women.org/
Angela Amos (they/them) serves as the Program Director at Transitions’ Women’s Hearth, a drop-in day center in downtown Spokane. Their areas of expertise include harm reduction, trauma-informed care and substance use disorder treatment. Angela holds an M.A. in Addiction Studies from Eastern Washington University and an M.A. in English Literature from Boise State University. A Spokane transplant, Angela has happily made their home here and lives with their spouse, children and two snarfy dogs, who are, of course, the very best good girls. In their spare time, Angela loves to be outside, go for hikes, read, garden, write and play music.

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