Changing the Mindset of Homelessness with Jenna Juniper
“It takes a team, a village, a nation to move this needle of building more housing and getting individuals out of homeless shelters into stable housing.” – Jenna Juniper
I had the delight of speaking with Jenna Juniper, the CEO at housing consultants of America, a consulting and training company focused on affordable housing. She has successfully partnered developers with nonprofits, implementing and sustaining critical and supportive services on low-income properties across the nation.
- How affordable housing helps unlock human potential
- The power of human potential in dire circumstance
- Why taking a pause is essential for clarity
How affordable housing helps unlock human potential
Jenna grew up in a close-knit Italian family, surrounded by loved ones and relatives, meeting every Sunday for big Italian dinners. She dreamed of becoming a teacher someday.
After high school and some poor choices, she plummeted away from her family and into single motherhood alongside an abusive relationship.
“All I knew is I had to take care of myself and my son, and what could I do to meet our basic needs?” Jenna shares. “I found hope in housing. I was looking for employment. I found a temp agency that put me at an apartment complex.”
She didn’t know anything about affordable housing, and had never even heard the term. But something told her she needed to be there.
“Listening to this person on the other side of the table, tell me ‘Your rent is paid for, don't worry about it. Now all you need to do is figure out your essentials. We've now figured out your employment,’ I was temping at an affordable housing property. And I fell in love with it,” she continues.
Jenna began to build a future for herself and her son, one built from stability and consistency. Having a roof over our heads and food on the table are two of the most basic, essential human needs. Without them, we have almost no reserves for creativity, positive thinking, etc.
Everyone deserves to have those basic needs met and unlock their potential.
The power of human potential in dire circumstance
When we’re in survival mode, it’s near impossible to thrive. But there is one thing under our total control: Our mindset. The thoughts we believe, the patterns we create in our brain, and the action we take based on those thoughts.
Any change we want to see—in our lives or the world as a whole—starts with inner work. “If I'm not taking care of myself, then I can't empower the community. I can't affect the community. If I can affect the community, then I can affect policy and change—it's a tiered structure, and if we don't start with taking care of ourselves, we can't help anyone else,” Jenna says.
Homelessness is an intense, trying environment to shift mindsets in. How does one take care of themselves if they’re living on the street? It’s not easy, but it is free.
“Changing your mindset doesn't require money. It doesn't require you to be living in a mansion. It's something you can do when you're on a bus, a train, you can do this anywhere,” she continues.
Shifting mindsets from stuck, scared, and insecure to one that seeks opportunity and seizes chances for change can make all the difference.
Why taking a pause is essential for clarity
Fight or flight narrows our senses to bare-bones, canceling out seemingly irrelevant details and pushing us to move, go, and act without taking in the whole picture. When we take a moment to pause, we open our eyes fully, and can take in our surroundings with a calm mind.
“I can tell you taking that pause is so essential, because even just for an individual who is just at a shelter receiving food, in that moment of just having a meal taken care of, that pause, can allow their mindset to release,” Jenna says. “When you're in that fight or flight mode, you're too stressed to see what might be around you. And there might be fliers you're not seeing, resources you're not seeing.”
These moments of pause don’t need to happen on a walk, or in a meditation center, or anywhere else tranquil. They can happen any time. And with these pauses, we open ourselves to trying paths even if they don’t lead where we expect, the goal is to keep looking and trying.
“It's really important to understand that these methods take time, but it's the continually repeating this process on a daily basis, hourly basis, that will then attract positive things into your life—resources, people, and it'll slowly change your mindset on a daily basis,” she continues.
The power of pausing and restarting exists across nature and within our very breath. Every time we breathe in and out, we restart. Everytime the sun sets and rises, we restart. Seasons turn into each other in cycles, and with every step forward, we turn into new seasons, too.
We are anything but stuck, no matter our environment.
When was the last time you paused and sat with yourself? What did you feel in that stillness?