‘So what kind of success rate do you have with people?’ I looked at this person while a whirlwind of thoughts raced around in my head, almost like the dog chasing his tail.
My friend was thinking there might be a 3%, or maybe 5% success rate – where a person who lives in abject poverty, on the streets, ‘recovers’ and breaks the cycle of poverty, gets a job, an apartment, a family and all the other trappings that accompany the ‘Canadian dream’.
My mind flashed to people that I knew on the streets: people that had been sexually abused for many years as children and who had articulated these abuses only after living with them in silence for over 20 years; I thought of others who were trapped in the dark cycle of drug and alcohol addiction which started as self-medication to deal with the beatings received from father, mother, step-parent or whoever; then of the teenage girl who brought her new born baby to the drop in for help, looking for someone – anyone who might show her real love, because in her experience people had only used her as if she were a piece of meat, a commodity that could be sold, rented or used.
All this raced through my mind in just a few seconds, with my friend waiting for an answer to his probing question.
‘One hundred percent,’ I replied, ‘We have a 100% success rate.’
His mouth dropped open in disbelief. ‘What?? How??’
‘Each time we hand out a sandwich, or sleeping bag, or pair of socks, we build relationship with people who have never had relationship before. It brings someone a step closer to a time when a light will come on and they will make better decisions and life choices.’
Some agencies count their ‘success’ by the number of plates served at a shelter or drop in (not withstanding that many folks will have five helpings!), or the number of people who attend a chapel service in order to receive a meal ticket, or the number of youth who will participate in a ‘project’ so as to make them eligible to receive services.
We count the number of positive interactions we have with our street friends at our drop in services or on the street through outreach. It’s all about relationship (and 100% success).