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Haley Andreades Vermeer

Doing Something

August 18, 2021 | By | No Comments

When I first arrived at Dry Bones, I felt hopeful and energetic, excited to live the kind of life I had long wanted to live—one with purpose and depth, one in which I felt like I was actually doing something in the community. I had spent nearly my whole life in school, writing paper after paper and reading book after book about people who had done something. I admit I had a bit of a savior complex at first, but I eventually realized that wanting to do something in the world wasn’t an inherently evil desire. I realized that it mattered what I understood “doing something” to mean.

In school, “doing something” usually meant achieving something tangible, getting an A on a paper, making the Dean’s list. In other arenas of life, “doing something” involved other forms of earning or striving, other ways of proving that I was capable, competent, somehow impressive. Building community at Dry Bones often didn’t feel like “doing something” in the beginning. We weren’t providing affordable housing; we weren’t solving houselessness. Relationship alone wasn’t going to alleviate our friends’ pain and wouldn’t get them a safe place to live. At times I felt disappointed, as if my anticipation for living a kind of life I had wanted to live had been in vain.

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Presence

May 12, 2021 | By | No Comments

Last week I found myself in the Denver Art Museum staring at a sculpture featuring pairs of pantyhose attached to a blank white wall in vaguely-geometric patterns. Some of the pantyhose ends were filled with sand and resting on the floor. Right outside the exhibit played a video of a woman moving, dancing, and interacting with a similar arrangement of pantyhose. In the video, a musician played lightly and gently, the dancer moving to the music. She moved her body through the spaces in between the pantyhose and the wall and occasionally picked a strand of pantyhose and moved it where she wanted it to go. As she moved, the sculpture changed.

The entrance to the exhibit featured a quote by Senga Nengudi, the visual artist known for her abstract sculptures made of everyday objects and accompanying choreographed performances whose work was featured therein.

“How do you respond? To your environment, your city, your community? What do you make of this world? How do you transform what you find into what you would like it to be?”

Recently, Dry Bones outreach staff spent some time with college students from Northwestern College through a spring service partnership. As part of our time together, we stood and each stared at one square foot of earth below our feet. This was followed by kneeling down and observing that same square of earth. Finally, we laid face down in that square and stared intently at the earth below. By the time we laid down, blades of grass grazing our chins, we had spent about 10 minutes in silence staring at the ground. Read More

Houseless But Not Homeless

August 22, 2020 | By | No Comments

A gentleman experiencing houselessness stood with me on a sidewalk downtown and told me about how COVID-19 has impacted his life on the streets. “If a few of us start to gather together, the cops come and tell us to disperse,” he said, a restaurant patio full of people gathered together a mere block behind him. Looking around he explained, “This is my neighborhood, my home. I grew up right over there,” his brown-skinned hand pointing north of where we were standing. “Just a few blocks that way.”

This city is far more his home than it is mine. Homeless he is not. Houseless he should not be.

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Living in the Essential

May 26, 2020 | By | No Comments

In the past two months, I think I’ve heard, read, and said the word essential more times than I did in all my pre-COVID-19 years combined. It will be interesting to see if and how the word essential will occupy a more everyday place in our lexicon after all this is over.

For the time being, we seem to have gained a new appreciation and respect for that which is essential and for those who have been deemed essential. As we witness an economy long supported by the consumption of nonessential commodities begin to crumble after only a few weeks of pressure, we question the value of the nonessential.

And perhaps rightly so. Our society and our very lives feel as if they’re being stripped down to the essentials, and it at times feels like a very good thing.

And yet, those of us who have the privilege of riding out stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders from the comfort of our own homes are also recognizing that we deeply crave the nonessential. We deeply desire to go get our hair cut and perhaps try Read More

At the Gas Station Intersection

April 17, 2020 | By | 2 Comments

Friends keep graciously reaching out to me asking how our friends experiencing homelessness are faring during these difficult times. Each time I respond, I am taken aback by my own answer. “Some of them are understandably anxious about it all; some of them are having a harder time finding safe and welcoming places to spend their day, reliable sources of food, places to charge their phones, things like that; and others don’t seem to be bothered by it, being used to living simply and on the edges of society.” I am taken aback by my own answer because on one hand this global pandemic has made people on the margins’ lives even more difficult, and on the other hand it has simply shifted the suffering they experienced on a daily basis in our pre-pandemic world. In some sense, those on the margins are able to turn to those of us who are more privileged in society and say, “Welcome to our world.” Read More