I guess with like upper management…I wish they understood the work that we're doing and what it does to us. Um, and I feel like there's…very little type of, like, compassion, empathy, or trying to use any like restorative justice of like principles or framework to, like, understand the type of work that we're doing, uh, because I feel like to them, everything is just like numbers essentially.
You know—you know what—when people, you know, I work with a lot of people who, um, who are educated people and because they are educated people, they-they, belittle us and feel as though no one else is as educated as they are. Especially if you have the word 'outreach' associated to your title.
And, um, you know, certain things like, I mean, you know, majority of these, uh, not-for-profits are-are yearly, quarterly funded. So, this is not a long term, uh, uh, source of income for these individuals. And majority of them, I can tell you for a fact, because I've had conversations with them, afterwards, they feel used. They feel used like, 'Man, you know, I was used for this much time, and now they need me no more, you know.'
A colleague had her car shot up and ended up losing one participant . . . I think that was the first time I actually even let into my head about the danger of the job.
We're always going to be Black and Brown to law enforcement. We're always going to look like a gang member to the rival gang. We're always going to be ex-felons, or former incarcerated people that people look at with less regard, or don't take our words seriously. Or see our line of work as insignificant, or as really a consequence of not being able to do something more and better with our lives.
You know, we as workers, we're not miracle workers. So, we need not only for us to understand that…but we also need the public to understand that. 'Cause there's always this outcry of why aren't we doing enough? We're trying, but we're not miracle workers. You can't change their behavior, we just came into their lives probably two weeks ago and you're expecting change overnight. It takes time, 19, 18 months sometimes two to three years to get these individuals to see change as necessary.
But, uh, I-I don't like being, uh, stigmatized and the stereotypes of, you're just a thug with a job, 'cause they think of street intervention workers are people that do this kind of work are usually just thugs, you know, are usually just using that as a front.
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Uh, I mean it's a lifestyle, so it's hard to narrow it down to hours. Um, I can't narrow it down to hours because sometimes it'd be one o'clock in the morning, sometimes, it would be all day.
Yeah, yeah. So really what your kids are going through. You feel it, you take on it. I mean, I-I always say this to my coworkers and whatnot, but I'm not here to prune shrubs. I'm not here to, you know, cut off dead leaves of trees. I'm here to put my hands in the dirt and make something positive grow out of it. That's the only way to really nurture something is to put your hands in the dirt and, you know, make sure you get those roots in there too.
We wear a lot of hats, man, we wear a lot of hats, and we risk our lives doing it with very minimal, you know, very minimal pay. And especially compared to police officers and law enforcement officers, and—very little assurance of safety, right? Because we put our lives on the line and our bodies on the line with very little ways to, you know, try to combat anything that might come at us.
For the full research paper, “Between a Bullet and Its Target: Street Intervention, Trauma Exposure, and Professional Implications,” or additional inquiries contact the principal investigator, Dr. Kathryn Bocanegra at email@example.com.
© Street Support/Dr. Kathryn Bocanegra/Jane Addams College of Social Work. All rights reserved. Participant quotes have undergone minor editing for length. This study was made possible by a generous grant by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Site design and project coordination by Allegro Design Inc.