Community Editorials

Guest editorial: Bridge of Hope offers honest, respectful dialogue

Posted on March 30th, 2023 By: Lew Napolitano

Editor’s Note: Lew Napolitano of Tacoma is involved in the YMCA’s Bridge of Hope initiative. He provided this report on the initiative’s progress and plans. Click here for our earlier story about Bridge of Hope.

The YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, in response to the community wide disruption of effective and respectful dialogue over many issues of importance to the function of our society, has developed the Bridge of Hope initiative.

It is designed to provide a facilitated forum for those with differing opinions on challenging topics to converse in a respectful manner that builds understanding, trust, and hope without any attempt to change opinions. Facilitators have been trained and coached by Essential Partners, gleaning from their 30 + years of experience.

About 40 people gathered to discuss issues of homelessness as part of the Bridge of Hope initiative Feb. 1 at the Gig Harbor YMCA.

The YMCA recently sponsored two community dialogues through the Bridge of Hope initiative. The evening focused on “Exploring the Complexity of Homelessness in the Gig Harbor Key Peninsula Community.” Over 40 people attended and embraced the opportunity to share and to hear various perspectives on the issue. Participants were also challenged to offer feedback and to propose next steps.

The process used by Bridge of Hope created an environment for open and honest dialogue were all voices are heard and respected. Written comments following both sessions reflect a desire to have access to more information.

A few of the written comments were:

  • “I like the structure that allowed for careful listening”
  • “…honest dialogue; respectful conversation”
  • “we’ve all identified the same issues which means it’s a problem we need to address in Gig Harbor”
  • “It was enlightening to hear from a group of people with such a variety of community experiences.”

A desire exists from those in attendance to have access to more information regarding demographics, numbers, trends, services, organizations involved, and what has and hasn’t worked so far in addressing issues tied to homelessness in the community.

It appears that the majority of those in attendance empathize with the many issues and concerns around homelessness, including high rental costs, life changes displacing households, and situations where there does not seem to be any other option but to live in a car/tent or couch surf.

A discussion group at the Bridge of Hope meeting on Feb. 1 at the Gig Harbor YMCA.

People want to build on the expertise already in existence and people genuinely want to want help address needs and issues. Suggestions for moving forward included developing a plan to communicate information on the issue including opportunities to help.

Other suggestions include a series of group discussions with different community members, finding grass roots solutions to root causes, and collaboration between networks and among community members. A focus on prevention opportunities also surfaced as a way forward.

On May 10, 2023 starting at 6:30 at Tom Taylor YMCA, a follow-up session will be offered to investigate community homelessness issues further. An educational presentation regarding the various aspects of homelessness, demographic information and numbers of those impacted in the area will be offered along with a “lived experience” about the personal, social, economic impacts of living with homelessness.

A panel discussion presenting current organizational and individual efforts in the community, ways to become involved in addressing homelessness, and a voicing of perspectives to agencies and fellow concerned citizens is planned.

The issue of homelessness is gaining increased traction at many levels. Inviting healthy, respectful dialogue on the issue aligns with the Y’s purpose of improving the health and well-being of our community. Going forward, individuals and community organizations connecting through these dialogues will take action aligning with their goals and purpose.

Margaret J. Wheatley said, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” This community cares! Change is ahead!

Click here to register for the May 10 event.