Trauma, Compassion, and Training

Posted on August 2, 2019

Ryan Dowd in front of three photos

Today’s Buzz is brought to you by Kylie Bayer, HR Manager with the City of McMinnville (Twitter, LinkedIn)

(Please excuse my lack of photos/GIFs, I didn’t bring my mouse to Sunriver, OR and am writing this Buzz with a Surface Pro and a healthy level of resentment toward my husband for taking me on a 3 mile hike that was actually a 9.1 mile hike that I was not prepared for, mentally or physically. 34 has not been nice to my knees.)

What I’m Reading: The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker… (Big thanks to Kirstin Wyatt for sending me this gem as I help to plan #ELGL20, I only want to plan meaningful events and parties from now on.)

What I’m Listening To: The Black Crowes. Every time I’m with my dad we jam to The Black Crowes, one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.

What I’m Doing: Researching bike rentals in Sun River so I can cruise the 35 miles of bike paths in style. Also drinking a black cherry White Claw (#WhiteClawSummer #NoLawsWhenYouDrinkClaws!)

A couple of months ago the City of McMinnville hosted a training related to homelessness with Ryan Dowd. Ryan is the director of a large homeless shelter in Aurora IL (cue Wayne’s World GIF.) He’s also a renowned trainer on issues related to homelessness. The main theme I took away from Ryan’s training was compliance through compassion, which is proving to be helpful in situations other than managing issues related to people experiencing homelessness.

Ryan’s style was just what our audience, made of city staff and community members, needed for a training on such a difficult topic. A little context on our city: McMinnville is a city of about 34,000 residents, we’re the county seat so there are a lot of county services available to our residents, and we are experiencing challenges related to increases in our homeless population (or maybe increases in the visibility of these issues.) We’ve been implementing a multi-pronged approach to tackle this community challenge: partnerships with our county and nonprofits and churches in the area, ordinances, training in our police department, etc. It’s been a major challenge and we’ve received significant pressures from within the community to keep doing more to solve this problem. We’re not alone in feeling these pressures, I know many municipalities involved with ELGL are in the same boat.

We learned that trauma causes challenges in engaging with people experiencing homelessness. When someone has experienced trauma their views of the world are significantly changed. Examples Ryan shared included: the concept of time, views of authority figures, and effectiveness of punishment (banning someone from a library for 1 day versus 100 days doesn’t seem to make much difference to someone who has experienced trauma.) Communicating across those cultures (those who have experienced trauma and those who have not) can be difficult. Ryan spent the majority of his training either explaining why these challenges exist or providing strategies to achieve compliance with rules (often rules in a library or community center.)

Essentially, a little kindness and understanding go a long way. I’m not a fan of overdone quotes but it’s true, everyone is fighting a battle you’re not aware of. When working with people who have experienced trauma, homelessness, personal challenges, issues at work, health problems, etc. you’ve got to exercise compassion, grace, and understanding. I’ve found this reminder (sometimes reminded to me by my boss J) helpful in change management, bringing new HR policies to my City, and working through labor negotiations, high-level recruitments, and strategic plan implementation.

If you have a chance to attend Ryan’s training, do it.

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