When people ask me where I work, I get excited and yet also apprehensive. Sometimes I simply say, “I work in homeless services in Hollywood.” This is true, of course, but it doesn’t highlight the thing I love most about working in homeless services at the Center. Namely, getting to connect with people using our relational model; cutting through isolation by focusing on wellbeing and community-building activities that bring people together. There are a lot of ways that we do this, but one of the best ways, (in my opinion,) is through music. Whether you’re at a wedding or in a car with strangers, there’s something about music that brings people together in a celebratory way.
We get to hear music together every day we’re open during coffee hour, that time at 9 A.M. where we open our gates, put out giant vats of coffee, and essentially throw a party in the middle of Hollywood for the people who are usually excluded from guest lists. Some of our participants sing along, some of them dance, some of them simply let it play in the background as the soundtrack to meaningful conversations or trying on a new sweatshirt from our donations.
We also play music together once a week, at 11 A.M. on Mondays. We’ll listen to a song, and then, in a perfectly imperfect medley of guitars, tambourines, maracas, congas, shakers and bells, and loud voices, we give the original song a run for its money. Our love for the old songs, and an ever-increasing boldness to sing and play and percuss with fervor helps us share an experience, and come out of our shells.
A real treat, though, is once a month when our outreach worker Douglas leads a special group called “Record Revolutions”. About 100 records are placed on a table in the middle of the room, and participants and staff get to pick some out, listen to them at individual stations, and then pick particular tracks to play on the large turntable for everyone else. More than simply being a great time to simply be together and discover for ourselves and each other new and fun music,
it’s kind of incredible to work at a place where an outreach specialist and navigator has the opportunity to connect with his clients on more than just “business”, but real life. Perhaps there are some out there, but I doubt there are many places whose outreach and engagement models include listening to music… and I can assure you that the relationships that are made through shared life and appealing to our common humanity. Our clinical director likes to remind us often: “We are more human than we are otherwise.” Music is one of many ways we validate that, and utilize it toward ending isolation and homelessness here at the Center.
Contributed By Kevin Nye