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Trauma-informed Community

"The point to be made is that the attempt to co-create a new world - a quest that animates today's countercultural movements - is really about the stories we tell. When we change the story, we change reality. We thus need a politics of disruption, a 'program' of disorientation...a magic trick. We need to lose our way in the wild and dense forests of despair and confusion long enough to unlearn old ways of seeing. It is the debris of our fallen structures and broken foundations that provide us the material we can use to construct new continents of peace and shared wealth." 

Adebayo C. Akomolafe, Nigeria

The leading edge of community peace-building is to re-frame the process as a public health challenge, or to become a "trauma-informed community." These two key questions will help guide our next steps:

  1. To what extent do social services in Eugene attempt to understand and heal not only the past traumatic experiences of the people they serve but also the trauma history of the service provider?
  2. What capacity exists among the wounded, disenfranchised peoples within Eugene to unite into a self-healing community? 


Perhaps first ask "What has happened to me?" Have I ever experienced trauma, despair, hopelessness? Can I empathize with other people's trauma? "Traumatic experiences can be dehumanizing, shocking or terrifying, singular or multiple compounding events over time, and often include betrayal of a trusted person or institution and a loss of safety. Trauma can result from experiences of violence. Trauma includes physical, sexual and institutional abuse, neglect, intergenerational trauma, and disasters that induce powerlessness, fear, recurrent hopelessness, and a constant state of alert. Trauma impacts one's spirituality and relationships with self, others, communities and environment, often resulting in recurring feelings of shame, guilt, rage, isolation, and disconnection. Healing is possible. The National Center for Trauma-Informed Care seeks to change the paradigm from one that asks, 'What's wrong with you?' to one that asks, 'What has happened to you?' "

A stunning 41% of Oregon families do not earn enough to pay for healthy food, safe housing, or a financial safety net. The ones we label as "homeless" are Internally Displaced Persons seeking refuge from multiple wounds and traumas, yet our dominant mind-set classifies and stereotypes them as inferior human beings. The homeless people in our midst are refugees from a host of causes including: misguided policies toward the mentally ill, lack of affordable day care, a shift to minimum, non-living-wage jobs, class prejudice, and other economic and environmental disasters. They could teach us a thing or two about survival under the worst of circumstances, about keeping hope alive when all of it is being swept away by corporations, governments, bad weather, and prejudice which is beyond their power to control. About forming bonds of brotherhood among strangers, about social agreements and self-governance.

There are an estimated 3,000 refugees in this immediate area, and a hasty defensive reaction ("what's wrong with these people?") on our part will quickly be overwhelmed by an easily foreseen avalanche of greater and greater numbers of economic and environmental refugees. If we as self-appointed activist/healers have not acknowledged and corrected our own trauma so that we can be truly empathetic, we will simply perpetuate the wound-problem being addressed. Steven Wineman, author of Power Under, says,"There is a strong tendency for traumatized people [that's us, all of us] to internalize the experience of powerlessness, and then at critical moments to engage in desperate efforts at self-protection that are driven from that place of subjective powerlessness."  We cannot alter policies that add further trauma to the lives of refugees without also transforming our own overly-defensive reactions and attitudes. We need scalable, sustainable social structures that support the transformation of refugee and citizen alike.

The Opportunity Eugene Task Force set an immediate goal of a long-overdue series of community conversations between the housed and unhoused, and there are expert facilitators for that conversation in this community. Let’s do it. We have the opportunity to set the standard, to teach our community and our business owners that having power WITH others is far more creative and effective than having power OVER others. Let's fund these conversations with Social Impact Bonds.

If we do this, we will begin to see the crisis of traumatic poverty subside. We will see the funds that are now being consumed in vast amounts to deal with emergencies -- for example, $13 million in property crime, a 700% increase in fire department medical service calls since 1996 -- those funds will be available for the healthy growth and development of children, and the true security and prosperity of adults -- everyone, not just the privileged. 

Elaine Walters, Executive Director of the Trauma Healing Project speaking at a breakout 
during Faith In Action With Our Homeless, on Sept. 22, 2016.

The City of Tarpon Springs is taking steps to become a "trauma informed community." Here to talk about what that means (11 min.) and how we can all be a part of this movement are Robin Saenger - former Vice Mayor of Tarpon Springs - and Dr. Andrea Blanch -- Senior Consultant with the National Center on Trauma Informed Care.

 A growing network of leaders in research, policy and practice are leading the way in preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and mitigating their impact by building resilience. In this short video, Jane Stevens, founder of ACESTOOHIGH.com and ACESCONNECTION.com, shares the importance of storytelling in the trauma informed movement.


Lane County Resilience Summit Handouts (Purpose. Goals, Definitions and Questions) 5-30-17. The goal is to enhance the capacity of adults and youth to gain knowledge and learn skills, and encourage organizational and community leaders to use practices and implement policies that help residents cope with adversities without harming themselves, other people, or the natural environment. The initiative also seeks to help residents learn to use adversities as transformational catalysts to learn, grow, and increase personal, social, and environmental wellbeing substantially above pre-crisis conditions. 

One-page summary of "Implementing the New 'Germ' Theory for the Public's Health: A Call to Action," an excellent 30-page description of a public health approach to healing trauma. 

Oppression, Victim Body & Creative Body The body traumatized by oppression becomes a “victim” body that—way underneath--is identified with shame and powerlessness.

Restoring Sanctuary: A New Operating System for Trauma-Informed Systems of Care -- a roadmap to recovery for our nation's systems of care. It explores the notion that organizations are living systems themselves and as such they manifest various degrees of health and dysfunction, analogous to those of individuals. Becoming a truly trauma-informed system therefore requires a process of reconstitution within helping organizations, top to bottom. A system cannot be truly trauma-informed unless the system can create and sustain a process of understanding itself.

Transforming anger into nonviolent power -- "A specialist in healing from trauma, Gbowee and her allies had spent months visiting mosques, markets and churches in order to mobilize a nascent peace movement."

The Bully Too Close to Home --"If you think that criticizing, belittling, or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter, or more valuable, please reconsider." 

Love Always Wins: Hope for Healing the Epidemic of Violence -- Most of us are helplessly entangled in one form of violence or another, as witness, victim, or perpetrator. It could be systemic, inter-personal or internal violence, spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical violence. This is a personal story of recovery from dependency on chemicals and violence that includes an overview of the recovery process.


Trauma Healing Project in Eugene is promoting liberation and justice through direct healing support, community engagement, and survivor led co-learning.work to increase community capacity to support healing through education, research, and the development and provision of trauma-informed complementary services and care.

Somatics and Social Change > generation FIVE  -- Sexual abuse, like many other forms of addictive behavior (chemicals, shopping, gambling, work, sex, power, anger, danger, etc.), is being seen as a disease of violence and trauma that affects everyone. The perpetrator is no less affected than the victim in repeating cycles of self-and-other destructive cycles. The principles of healing the intergenerational patterns of sexual abuse may also apply to other areas of life not normally considered to be trauma. ‬

Center On Violence & Recovery at NYU in New York -- great resource!

What is a Trauma-Informed Child- and Family-Service System? The National Child Traumatic Stress Network is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art training to enhance the quality of clinical assessment, treatment, and services for traumatized children, adolescents, their families, and communities. To that end, the Network offers a variety of in-person and online (live and on-demand) training opportunities.

The National Center for Trauma Informed Care facilitates the adoption of trauma-informed environments in the delivery of a broad range of services including mental health, substance use, housing, vocational or employment support, domestic violence and victim assistance, and peer support.

The Homeless Wisdom Circle began in May, 2014, to reflect on the growing awareness in Eugene about how traumatic it is to be without shelter, and that social services are unprepared to deal with cascading environmental and economic crises. No one of us has a solution, yet together we have the heart and imagination to discern a way forward with compassion for all people involved.

David Hazen,
Jul 26, 2017, 12:19 PM