I haven't thought much about the homeless in a long time. I see none where I live in Germany. Not that Germany has no homeless people. But they aren't in the countryside.
In Portland, I used to see them all the time. For a while, I volunteered in a transitional housing center, cooking dinners for men who were on their way from a shelter to an apartment of their own. In the process of working there, one of the case workers and I got to talking, and he pointed how how the men really needed eye exams also- that not being able to see was something that was holding them back from employment. I wouldn't have known that, and it was my profession. Among our separate contacts, we were able to set up an evening eye clinic in downtown Portland, staffed by volunteer optometrists. I wouldn't have guessed that we'd get it done. It just shows that it takes brainstorming, effort and action to make real changes that can help others who are stumbling in their lives.
Today, I ran into, "A Plan to Make Homelessness History" in the NYT. I thought it would be another silly hopeful article but I was wrong. The article and organizations profiled were steeped in reality. They made a point about the public health portion of homelessness and the profile of a homeless person. They have a plan to reduce homelessness, and it is working. People across the USA are volunteering for these groups, and they're changing things, and feeling good about it.
What I didn't know:
"They [Common Ground] have now surveyed almost 14,000 chronically homeless people and found that roughly 20 percent are veterans, 10 percent are over the age of 60, 4 percent have H.I.V. or AIDS, 47 percent have a mental illness and 5 percent remain homeless because they can't find housing with their pets."
Their method (Common Ground):
"Hit the streets and get to know the most vulnerable people, keep talking with them until they agree to enter housing (without pre-conditions), and then blanket them with supports to keep them there."
Inspiring: (almost brings tears to my eyes)
"You might imagine that it would be hard to get people to show up in the pre-dawn hours, venture into alleyways, and ask strangers personal questions about their health. Just the opposite. In Phoenix, 175 people turned out; in San Diego, 250; in Omaha, 75; and in Chicago over 150, including Mayor Daley. In Phoenix, after the surveys were complete, organizers asked volunteers if they would like to contribute money — at $1,000 a shot — to assist homeless people with furniture and move-in expenses. In 10 minutes, they raised $50,000. "This wasn't a room of philanthropists," Kanis added. "It was just volunteers. But you had people saying, 'I'll take the guy in the wheelchair.' 'We'll take the two veterans.' There was probably a five minute standing ovation."
If you want to read the full article:
Or give your time or money this year: