Daily life at CSS Safe Spots offers much needed relief from the challenges of living without a home. Having a roof over one’s head, a place to store belongings, and a community of folks to share common space and a kitchen can make a big difference for residents.
But life at the Safe Spots also comes with its own set of challenges. As with any group of people, conflicts can and do happen. A key component of the CSS culture is finding ways to deal with conflict constructively, before things get out of control.
The CSS service position of camp facilitator helps establish and sustain that culture of positive community dynamics at the Safe Spots. One of the first to fill this newly redefined position is Plaedo, who began his CSS service work with the Expressway Camp in 2019.
“A lot of what I do is help set the tone and atmosphere for community building,” he says. “If any residents are having a conflict, or there’s a problem with camp dynamics, then we find out what the situation is and help to de-escalate things.”
Plaedo now runs monthly conflict resolution meetings at three Safe Spots—Expressway, Westmoreland, and Roosevelt. Residents are required to attend the meetings to air any concerns or disputes that have come up.
“If there’s new rules or rules that need to be explained, or folks need a reminder, that’s one of the things I do,” he says. “A lot of it is setting the right tone at the meetings and the camps for people to solve whatever problems come up.”
Plaedo works with two other CSS service team members at each camp to help residents establish and pursue personal goals for reentry to life after their residency time has elapsed, generally one year. The two other positions are service navigator and peer support worker.
Plaedo first learned of CSS and the Conestoga Hut program when he was an intern at Next Step recycling nine years ago. A few years later he rented a Hut for a short while for his honeymoon.
“I absolutely love this work,” he says. “I never imagined I would be doing this, but here I am and it’s a great opportunity.
“The biggest thing is, how do we all huddle ourselves as individuals so that we can create a community that keeps us all safe and secure and supported? It’s all about relationships,” he says. “We all want to respect and trust each other.”
The positive peer culture at CSS is its greatest asset, Plaedo says.
“There’s such a beautiful operational culture here. Everybody is respected for their unique contributions. There’s a lot of collaboration with all of us, a lot of ability and willingness to pivot and innovate and try things out.
“It’s a very heart-centered organization.”