Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania and the Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh hosted a community forum on Nov. 19 called “Hopeful Responses to Addiction,” geared toward addressing issues related to addiction in the Pittsburgh region. The event took place at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.
Approximately 50 guests listened to speakers representing a mixture of faith leaders from various local religious organizations, community experts on issues related to addiction, and first-person experts on the subject matter. The forum consisted of three main segments: defining addiction; the impact of addiction; and how to respond as a community.
Two of the event’s speakers were people with connections to Sojourner House. Recent Sojourner House graduate Shannon McNeil shared her first-hand account of recovery from addiction. Sojourner House’s founding Executive Director Dana Gold shared first-hand experiences as well. Other speakers included representatives from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Allegheny County Health Department, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, the Aleph Institute, and the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“The least we can do is treat everyone who is suffering from the disease of addiction with love and try to educate society on this awful disease,” said Meghan Briggs, Director of Clinical Services at Sojourner House.
The goal of the event was to make it more than just a lecture series. After each portion of the event, breakout groups and round-table discussions took place, to allow people to discuss the meaning and application of what they had just heard.
Also, the event invited local agencies who are doing work related to addiction — including Sojourner House — to host informational tables and to educate guests about how their agencies make a difference in the community.
“I hope this is a partnership that is going to continue into the future,” said Reverend Liddy Barlow, Executive Minister at the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, of her collaboration with Sojourner House. “It’s necessary for our houses of worship to pay attention to the world around us, and we’re called specifically to love our neighbors. Sojourner House and similar orgs can help us see a way to do this wisely and well.”
The November event was the latest in a series of similar events organized by CASP and The Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement, starting in the wake of demonstrations in Charlottesville in 2016. The three-pronged purpose of the series is to bring together people guided by hope, compassion, and good will; to encourage them to stand together in the public sphere; and to help oppose hate in our neighborhoods and communities.