We are all puzzled how to make a difference when it comes to the problem of homelessness, particularly in big cities. There is no one-size-fits-all and it is sometimes difficult to think of what one person can do to make a difference. I began volunteering at a homeless tent city weekly. I hard boil eggs and take down 4-6 dozen every week with other items I collect such as warm clothes, magazines, toiletries, paper goods, crayons for the children, and tampons. Boiled eggs are a good source of protein are easily kept and easily consumed. Most weeks I remember to bring salt and pepper too which is also much appreciated. Delivering them warm just out of the water is appreciated particularly in the colder seasons.
I don’t just drop these items off and drive away, most weeks I take an hour or so, to talk to people I have come to know there, and ask their names, and treat them with the dignity I would anyone in my home. I don’t make my usual hundred suggestions, I just listen actively, and give them an caring ear. I have heard some amazing tales and have also received amazing appreciation that I care and will take time to stop my busy life to regard their struggles.
I have concluded that when you are homeless you want to be treated with dignity but being on the street changes you immensely. It is almost as if you have been living on another planet and everything is topsy turvy in your life. It is terribly stressful just getting the activities of daily living taken care of to stay healthy and clean, never mind find a place to charge a cell phone, or find a safe place to sleep.
Here is a short video featuring a Real Change vendor in Seattle, Shelly Cohen, that is worth a viewing. Real Change started in Seattle over twenty years ago and has over 300 vendors. It has influenced the lives of many with the advocacy in the social justice arena. It has over a million dollar a year impact on the community of homeless and low-income.
Tom Ashbrook hosts an interesting discussion about Tackling Homelessness we could all benefit to listen to and think for a moment how you could lend an ear or a meal for someone who has no permanent housing. It’s not that hard and there are a million ways to make a difference in someone’s life with very little effort on your part.