Exclusion and disconnection

Homelessness is about exclusion and disconnection

The philosophy guiding La Rue Des Femmes/Herstreet is based on the understanding that homelessness is about exclusion and disconnection. This process, which has political, social, economic, and emotional consequences, begins when in the face of rejection, abandonment, and trauma, an individual leaves herself in order to not feel or experience the horror of exclusion and pain. The trauma in the form of physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse leads children to flee themselves, or the parts of themselves that they are taught to believe unacceptable and responsible for the abuse. This response, which is an attempt at self protection, leaves the child open to further abuse and exclusion. A person in this situation is at risk for a life long cycle of expulsion, exclusion, and violence.

At Herstreet we recognize that healing involves re inclusion in society, but that this does not happen until a woman can re inhabit herself and return to re experience herself as worthy and capable of connection. To that end we try to make every interaction a connected one. From how meals are served to how we listen, not just for words, but for essence and meaning to behaviour, not as acts, but for intention and impulse. We attempt to help the women see themselves as capable of enacting, not just re acting, a process which requires a complete re evaluation of self and others in society. We facilitate this movement in a myriad of small daily interactions as well as in more formal therapeutic sessions all of which are motivated by love and the reminder that connection to self and other is always possible.

The financial campaign we are currently undertaking is guided by the same principle. We understand that homelessness is not a personal problem, but a social one, not created by one person alone. Nor can it be solved by one person or one shelter. We therefore invited the entire population of Quebec to participate in helping to resolve the pain of homelessness. Everyone is affected by it. The person walking down the street witnessing the homeless person feels pain or discomfort, the people on the streets who are living it, and those of us working to change the situation. We are attempting to give everyone a role in the resolution. As a shelter dedicated to homeless women we are at the heart of a circle of energy going out in waves to an entire society connected in whatever way we can be directly or indirectly to the women who are in a struggle for inclusion.

Sulamit Lechtman            2006 May