Sidewalk Talk

Connecting Skillfully With People Experiencing Homelessness with Julian Plumadore

October 22, 2019

Standout Quotes From This Episode

  • We can honor the dignity, self-determination, and support the empowerment of people who are experiencing homelessness. 
  • It is not the job of anyone to go out and fix people. If we think we can fix someone it means we are starting with the belief they are broken. 
  • Get in the habit of recognizing the difference between fear and danger or comfort and safety. Uncomfortable and socially unacceptable behaviors we may experience are off-putting but not a direct threat when listening to people on the street. 


When he was a teen, Julian Plumadore was living on the streets of Seattle, Washington.  His lived experience as a trans teen, experiencing homelessness, and his own twenty-year work sustaining his own mental health have created a beautiful and loving conviction to do right by people struggling with homelessness and mental health crisis.  In this interview, you will learn and be inspired to take up the work of humanizing homelessness.

Police and Crisis Intervention in San Francisco

Now a trainer for who offers Crisis Intervention Training to newer San Francisco Police Officers and the general public, Julian has seen first-hand the impact of changing the way we think about homelessness and mental health.  People who were previously wary of police, now feel supported. 

If you are going to call the San Francisco Police Department for help with someone who is struggling on the street ask the following…

  1.     We need help with a mental health crisis
  2.     We need a Crisis Intervention Trained officer


Do You Have Any of These Stigmas About Being Homeless?

Julian and I talked about the wrong stigmas that we hold about people who are experiencing homelessness.  That they are lazy, choosing this lifestyle, and somehow deserve living this way. All of which are not true and Julian's own story helps us see the larger truth. The research I quoted about our brain’s predisposition to fully not recognize as human people struggling with addiction and those experiencing homelessness can be found here.

To make a difference in the life of someone homeless, humanize them, was the big take away. 

But there are things we need to get straight so we can humanize rather than objectify.

  1. We are not the experts on what they need and what they feel.
  2. We have to earn trust.  Just because our intentions are good we may still be met with hostility.
  3. We have to have inner resilience so we can accompany someone struggling even if that means they hate what we represent in their minds.
  4. We have to let go of our need to be “the good person” “saving this person” and instead have real humility.  Otherwise, our service is to help us feel like a good person rather than truly being of service.
  5. There is a real difference between our own conditioned fear and genuine danger. We have to lean into discomfort to serve folks who are on the street.
  6. There is very real hope for growth beyond mental illness and homelessness but we, as a community, may not see the impact of our service to this group of people.  Keep going.

These are just a few of the wisdom points Julian offers but listen to the interview.  You will be so overjoyed to hear Julian's story and be infused by possibility and you will come away hopeful that there are people like Julian in the world doing this work.

You can learn more about Julian’s work at and if there are other organizations in your part of the world that you think deserve a shout out, we would like to know about them.  Post a comment with a link to their work below.