Last week I participated in HUD’s annual Homeless Count. It was my first time, the first time for the ladies in my group. We were not working a route in the downtown area which in some ways is good but also more difficult to find homeless people since we did not have a police escort. There was some thought that one hopes to find a homeless person but you know, since the goal is to not have any homeless families at all then not finding a family would be a good thing. Considering the temperature outside was at 41° then one can relatively presume that most were finding some sort of shelter even if they were not in sponsored shelters. So what kind of folks might typically participate in the counts and why (this list is not inclusive)?
- There were folks like me who work for a federal agency. This was volunteer time for me and I have always wanted to volunteer it’s just that with having kids at home my priorities were made for me. This year I got to see first-hand how what I do for a living, working in Public Housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, makes a difference in the lives of so many.
- There are non-profits who volunteer so that they can find more families to do outreach and help them. Some homeless folks need some help with addiction issues, others are youth and of course others are families which include children. Perhaps they are living in a car in a parking lot
- Then there are faith based organizations. The ladies that rode with me were looking at finding a direction to help homeless women. This was part of their research in finding out how they could help homeless women the most.
What I did find out, like with the ladies who were riding with me, is that they have the biggest hearts. One lady, a single mother, wanted to pay it forward and see how she could help other women in their troubles. The other lady, a senior on a fixed income, had hoped to find homeless families too. I also discovered that she, even on her fixed income, goes out and feeds homeless folks out of the trunk of her car. She isn’t afraid of any of them for they have come to know her and she them. She looks forward to making her rounds when she does them. In turn, because of where I work, I was able to explain some of our programs better so that maybe she can find more suitable housing to help her financially.
Of the places we stopped to inquire about homeless families, it was interesting and hopeful to find that these little places, the local convenience store allows a man with a van to park there during the day. The fitness place allows the homeless to come in and shower. Other places give them left over foods since they would otherwise write them off and discard the food if not eaten in time. Other homeless huddle up underneath overpasses to stay out of the elements during the day. It is encouraging that our communities are helping homeless individuals, its just that not much is reported on it. Kudos to these places for helping when likely most of us are still in our comfort zones.
What I also discovered is that there are still people willing to get out of their comfort zones to help other families out. It really does not take much to make a difference in someone else’s life, it just takes a willingness and the go ahead effort to do something about it.
Even at night time, one can sow seeds and learn how to be more fruitful. How are you volunteering to become more fruitful in your community?