We all see it, probably every single day – Someone at an intersection or some other place, aiming for high visibility from cars – People with cardboard signs, asking for help.
I’ve always been torn when I see one of these people with their signs.
When I was younger, on a trip to New York City, my parents and I were visiting the hospital where I was born. Outside the entrance, there was this black woman, a little older, thin and frail, literally begging for people to help her. It was around my birthday, in early August, so it was definitely hot and humid that day too.
As a child/early teenager (I think I was in middle school at the time), I asked my mom if we could give this poor woman, clearly suffering, money or buy her some food. I remember Mom getting a little upset, frustrated, and telling me no, that we didn’t know if she was on drugs, that kind of thing.
From then on, I couldn’t stop staring. It broke my heart.
That memory has stuck with me for all these years. As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve learned that there are so many ways to help others who are in need.
I wanted to share with you a few ways, and tell you a few stories along the way.
First up – Blankets For The Homeless, or BFTH for short.
This is Mariah. She’s now 21 years old. And she’s making a massive difference.
Her story is amazing. She was born and abandoned on Christmas Eve. She was fostered, then adopted. She was homeless in the first hours of her life, and now she’s made it her mission to help those who are helpless and less fortunate.
BFTH is three, almost four years young now, but to the Hampton Roads area, it’s been a massive blessing since 2011.
They have a large following on Facebook – Blankets for the Homeless Hampton Roads. I love seeing the photos of donations, as well as distributions. Everyone’s smiling.
They are officially a 501c3 non-profit. Their mission: “Providing blankets, coats, hoodies, JEANS, clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, back packs, tents, tarps, toiletries, etc., & lunches to the homeless.”
Many of you who read the blog know that I follow Freckled Italian, Megan’s blog, obsessively. I love her work!
One of her posts that struck me recently was titled “On Cleaning Out My Closet.” Check it out!
Reading, and re-reading, that post from Megan, inspired me to clean out my OWN closet. I try to clean out my closet around every six months – Basically every spring/summer and then again in the fall/winter. I normally gather everything up and put it in bags and take it to the local Goodwill near my office.
However, since learning more about BFTH, cleaning out my closet this time took on a whole new meaning. When I looked at my entire wardrobe that Saturday, I immediately decided to separate it into two categories – The main one for BFTH, and the smaller one for Goodwill.
As I went through each item, I kept thinking, “If I were homeless, what would I appreciate receiving?”
I also went into my bathroom and gathered all the travel-sized toiletry items I could find. I also threw in extra, unopened, pads and tampons for the girls/women.
I’m very much looking forward to the day when I load up my trunk and make my way to Virginia Beach to help Mariah and her ongoing mission – Hopefully soon.
When that does happen, I’ll be sure to publish a follow-up post!
Next, I wanted to share what the state of Utah has been doing about their homeless population and housing.
Here’s one of the best summaries I could find:
In eight years, Utah has reduced homelessness by 78%, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015.
How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker.
So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail.
The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.
via Nation of Change
(Posted by Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura – January 20, 2014)
Whoa. That’s powerful!
Here’s a few hot links as well:
This is inspiring. I hope Utah’s example will spread!
Another group that struggles with homelessness is our military veterans.
This is both sad and maddening at the same time.
These men and women have served our country proudly. The last thing that they should struggle with is affordable housing, on their home soil!!
“We have an epidemic of homeless veterans on our nation’s streets. Over 100,000 brave men and women just lost in the shuffle.” ~Mac Taylor, CSI: NY
TODAY.com recently featured an article on helping homeless vets with socks.
The smallest items, like socks, can easily be overlooked when people think about the homeless.
When I was going through my wardrobe, I took time to count the pairs of socks I owned. I was immediately ashamed – I lost count at 30 pairs! I vowed then and there to include clean socks in my donations, to both BFTH and Goodwill.
The best thing about BFTH is they help everyone – Men, women, children, and even pets!
Another topic that’s come up regarding the homeless is the sheer number of abandoned houses. The city of Detroit comes to mind almost immediately, with numerous stories of the amount of houses, and the city auctioning them off for $1.00 so long as the winner fixes it up, and so on.
But it’s not just Detroit. There are abandoned houses in every town, city, county in this vast country of ours. Something needs to be done.
In my opinion, everyone needs to work together to rescue these houses and turn them into something positive. It would spread positive vibes in so many ways, I think.
If people came together and worked together to clean up these houses and make them livable, a homeless person or a homeless family could have a home again. With a home, they would be able to start their life or lives over. The thought of owning a home is still a dream to so many people.
I think of Habitat for Humanity. My parents used to volunteer with the local South Hampton Roads chapter – Our family and others from church helped build several houses in the early ’90s in some of the neediest areas of Portsmouth.
When Al and I get our first house, I plan to visit the local Habitat Re-Store to see what they have to offer. All the money from the stores go back to helping people and families build their own homes!
Two weeks ago, the story of Hailey Fort, from Washington state, went viral.
This girl, all of nine-years-old, has been an activist for the homeless since she was five. She’s made it her goal to build portable shelters AND grow food for these people.
Another story came out in April, from Denver, Colorado – The story of The Purple Door coffee shop.
The title of this story says a lot: “Coffee shop takes girl from homelessness to happiness.”
Toward the end of May, Steve Hartman on CBS profiled a man in San Francisco, helping with his sewing machine. I love Steve’s stories. This one – It’s mending people’s clothes, impressions, and hearts.
So, you may be asking at this point, “How can I help? What can I do?”
It’s overwhelming, really.
Here are my thoughts:
- Adopt the thought: “If I were in this situation, what would I like to receive?”
- Donate food to your local food pantry. My church does a weekly distribution, and there are so many families that receive assistance this way.
- Volunteer with Panera Bread’s Operation Dough-Nation program.
- Learn more about Habitat for Humanity.
- Educate yourself about the community/communities around you. Unfortunately, right now, homelessness is never far away.
- As Mariah says, “We are also asking that everyone make a ‘Blessing Box’ to keep in their car with five non-perishable lunches, blankets, and as the weather gets colder, hats and gloves to be able to immediately help someone in need. You can make a difference! We all can!”
- Any amount of money certainly helps, but sometimes, the littlest items are far better.
- Be the change! Be proactive. If everyone gave the tiniest bit of effort and time, this world would greatly improve.
Bottom line: Get involved! No effort is too small.
Also, it’s never too early to teach your children about the powers of giving, either.
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂