Thursday, February 17, 2011

How can we be a voice for the homeless?

 I think in order to spark people's interests in our community to help the homeless, we have to have some sort of catalyst that jump starts an overall mission. I've been going around in circles in my mind on how to make connections between people in the community that would be willing to spend some time and look at this growing issue. If we could send out some sort of brochure to everyone in the community urging them to take a step back and look at this issue, maybe more people would respond. I know another student in our class is doing a documentary on homelessness. Maybe if we showed our entire school the finished product and sent out some DVDs, people would get an understanding of how big this issue in our community is. We need a catalyst, it's just a matter of what.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dispelling the Stereotypes

Helping the homeless does involve things like giving money, or donating clothing, but the most important piece that truly will cause a chain reaction is understanding and dispelling homeless stereotypes. The best tool is always knowledge, because knowledge leads to action and evokes emotion and drive. Although some homeless people are in the situation they are in because of unhealthy lifestyle or financial choices, they now cannot go back in time and change what happened. In order to help the homeless, we must move forward from the past and the mistakes they've made because there's truly nothing that can be done about the past.
Respecting homeless people as individuals with unique situations is also vital in understanding how to help them. How can you better the life of another when you don't respect them? Educating people about their situation, their beliefs and ideals as human beings, will only personalize this growing issue. When homeless people stop being the statistic, and start becoming fellow neighbors reaching out for help, reaching out for an answer, people will be more likely to respond.
It's difficult to change someone when a predispositioned bias is already lingering in their mind. As I stated before, we cannot change the past, but must move forward and do what we can with what we have. Maybe we should stop looking at homeless people as the central issue, and move more towards the real issue; humanitarianism. We should centralize our efforts on changing the attitudes each party portrays and emphasize the importance of living in a non-judgemental community. I believe that if people would take a moment a day, and think of someone else, the world could truly be a better place. Homelessness is not the issue, people's attitudes and actions need to change before we can even begin to address this epidemic.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Digging In...

This week I had the opportunity to stay as the overnight host for the IHN at Berthoud United Methodist. After staying for two nights, it gave me a fresh perspective and some insight into what's going on as far as different charity organizations. During my stay, I had the priveledge of eating dinner with homeless families and playing with their kids. I brought my new little puppy Sammy in to play as well. It's amazing how far a little bit of kindness can go; they showed abundant appreciation simply because I was there and I was listening. I found that it takes a certain kind of person to work for a non-profit organization, and also how stressful it can be.
While I was at the church, I met a single mother of a beautiful one year old daughter. Talking with her really opened my eyes to how susceptible anyone can be to homelessness. This woman has her CNA and has worked for many different hospitals and nursing homes around the country. A bad roommate who up and left one day landed her and her daughter into a life without a home. Even with a job paying over minimum wage, she and her daughter have had to deal with many financial adversities. She said the one consistent thing that has helped her stay strong and motivated besides her daughter, is all of the people who have made an effort to help her. Truth is, everyone struggles in their lifetime one way or another. I've learned it's how you respond to these adversities that make you who are.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dignity Village

An interesting concept that the government has allowed is a campsite for the homeless, called Dignity Village. Dignity village is all about its name, staying dignified, and not being treated as if you're recieving a handout. The village has its own administrative and legislative branch that conducts interviews and allows homeless people a place to stay for a certain amount of time. Every new suggestion is treated as an actual law, and must pass through legislation before being approved. They even have a sanitation and recycling department that keeps the site clean. The village has 24 hour security to prevent things that discourage some homeless people from staying in an actual shelter such as assault. It also has things like hot dog and food stands that go out into the city and raise money for the village. Should or community consider something like this? Think the government would pass something like this in the front range? The cold weather would definitely be an issue, but in the summer it could provide shelter and a sense of security for people looking for a temporary place to stay.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Getting Started........

Homelessness is a commonly overlooked issue, not only nationwide, but also in our community. It's so easy to pass a person sitting on the ground next to a cardboard sign, or turn the other direction when someone asks for some spare change. The truth is, homelessness isn't a comfortable topic for most people, especially in our community. There are over 400 charitable organizations is Loveland, but there are still people simply looking for a warm bed to sleep in. This semester, I want to address this overlooked issue in our community as well as throughout the country. I want to understand why and how people can become homeless, and identify ways that would be beneficial in helping them get back on their feet again.
I believe that many people turn the other direction when they see a homeless person for many reasons. One of the obvious reasons why people may not have sympathy for the homeless, is because they believe that homeless people have a lack of interest in keeping a job, and are somewhat lazy. Contrary to this belief, many homeless people were actually working while they lost their home. Many contributing factors that sometimes cause people to loose their homes are reduced hours at work, lack of health care causing an inability to work, the general economy,  or a situation simply out of their control.
There are about 5 million homeless people in the United States today according to the National Law Center of Homelessness and Poverty, but only about 56% have some sort of shelter. I know I cannot simply wave a wand and fix this problem, but I can attempt to make a difference in our community. Many teenagers find themselves homeless, and it could be the person sitting right next to me in class. I believe they need someone to understand their situation instead of criticize or judge, and do something about it; whether it be taking them out to lunch one day a week, simply hanging out with them, or finding them a place to stay for the night. With over 400 charitable organizations in Loveland, and many volunteers who would be willing to donate time or anything that could help this issue, I believe the community can truly be bettered. Throughout this process I hope I will learn as much about myself as I learn about others, and keep my mind open to ideas that may be outside the norm.