I Am Project HOME - Karen Orrick
Resident Wanda Connelly probably summed up Karen Orrick as well as anyone can. After participating in a half-day retreat for community members that Karen organized, Wanda said: “She’s the only person I know who can get people dancing to Michael Jackson at 9:00 am in the morning!”
In her seven years at Project HOME, Karen has played a variety of roles, from managing our Hub of Hope drop-in center, to helping develop policies in our Strategic Initiatives Department, to supporting the Community Advisory Board for the Stephen Klein Wellness Center shortly after its opening, to helping organize the quarterly city-wide point-in-time counts of persons sleeping on the streets.
In her current role, which includes coordinating an organization-wide mission nurture initiative and facilitating the Resident Advisory Board (See “All of Us Together”), Karen is able to express her deepest passion: building a community of people from all walks of life.
“Connecting—actually connecting—across difference is hard work,” Karen says, but she believes it is the heart of Project HOME’s mission. “Learning to form mutual relationships when we come together from very different worlds, examining messages we’ve received about each other, sharing our stories, learning to be human with each other among our differences, that’s the force we need to end homelessness and transform our society.”
Karen approaches her work at Project HOME through an anti-oppression lens, which is core to her life vocation. “I try to see how larger forces of oppression, such as race and class, play out in our community, and how we can counteract them in our daily work and interactions.”
But that doesn’t mean it is all seriousness dealing with urgent and heavy issues. “I have a strong belief in the power of play,” Karen says. She is renowned for injecting a meeting or gathering with connecting exercises that could include game-playing, singing, or body movement. They are all part of a toolkit of facilitation strategies she uses to find different ways for people to connect. She also believes it is important to unleash people’s imagination and creativity to further the Project HOME mission. Several members of the Resident Advisory Board affectionately tag her “the camp counselor.”
With her amazing blend of organizing and relational skills, Karen brings a vital and inimitable energy to the Project HOME community – and the occasional 9:00 am Michael Jackson dance party.