Here’s to the givers

Practicing self-care is essential to those who work in social service

Brad Montgomery’s recent resignation from the Torres Community Shelter, following eight years at its helm, reminds us that our region is home to many critical social service organizations whose leaders are under a tremendous amount of pressure on a day-to-day basis.

As Montgomery noted in a CN&R profile during his last week at the facility (see “Tough job,” Newslines, July 13), his work was all-consuming. “I hear people talk about trying to find balance, and I’ve just never been able to do that with this job,” he told this newspaper.

We can certainly understand why.

First off, Montgomery was responsible not only for keeping his clients safe during their stays at the shelter, but he also attempted to help them into stable housing. Keep in mind that he worked directly with individuals who often have suffered trauma. Additionally, his job required him to oversee staffing at the facility, while simultaneously implementing programs for its clients and fundraising to keep the nonprofit sustainable. On top of all that, Montgomery faced community and political pressure during a time of escalating vilification of the homeless population.

Considering that level of chronic stress, it’s a wonder he didn’t burn out long ago.

Indeed, in Montgomery’s line of work, one of the job hazards is compassion fatigue—a preoccupation with the suffering of others that creates traumatic stress for the caregiver. It can lead to a host of poor outcomes, including apathy and isolation, according to The American Institute of Stress.

We salute Montgomery on his candor about the pressures of the job and his decision to step back and care for himself, and also for his many years of service to the community. We hope that other local caregivers—from the heads of these agencies to the volunteers—take heed and focus on their well-being. After all, our region benefits greatly from their efforts.