As I have learned more and more about this travesty we call homelessness, I volunteered with a nonprofit today (7/5/15) LA on Cloud 9. It was our goal to pass out food and care packages. Driving to the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I just walked along with this team with an open heart and an open mind. We went to areas I wouldn’t normally go to or even drive through, not because I was scared but because I had no purpose to go there, until today.
We met all types of people: white, black, Hispanic, old, and young. The main thing all of these people had in common was that they needed someone to care, someone to give, someone to smile at them and say “take care of yourself” and “we care about you”. Everyone who received a package was very grateful, telling us “God Bless you” “You are angels” “You’re making America great”. Ah yes, the words felt nice, but as I smiled and said “thanks” I couldn’t help but think, “Am I really making America great? What is it that I’m doing that other people can’t do?” I guess it’s just the fact that I took the time out of my weekend to help these people, people I don’t even know. To show them love in its purest form, expressing empathy to those who think they are broken and that no one cares.
Today, we came in contact with a young man. None of us pursued to find out his story. I really wanted to, but then I didn’t want to be rude. He shook all of our hands and graciously thanked us. He had a big smile on his face and only took what he needed at that moment. We wanted to give him more clothes, but he only took one t-shirt and pants. His clothes were torn and dirty. He said, “This will hold me over for a while.” I just thought, “wow what a strong young man.” I wanted to do more for him. There were other people too who didn’t want to take more than they needed. I was handing out bananas and one man said, “I already got two. I’m sure someone else could eat them.” All I could say was, “OK, are you sure?” What do you say to someone who turns down food so someone else can eat when you know they’ll be hungry later?
Some of them had dogs, typically picked up as strays or dumped by folks who no longer wanted them. Most people don’t realize that those with pets cannot stay in shelters. These people are criticized, “why have a pet when you can’t even take care of yourself?” Well, let me put it this way: If you had a pet for a long time, and then all of a sudden you don’t have a home, would you leave your pet with someone they didn’t know, put it in a shelter (where half the animals are put down on a daily basis), or live on the streets with the one creature that does not judge you for being in your current state? I too would pick the latter.
Together we can help people have good hygiene and focus on empowering people to better themselves rather than enable them to stay where they are. I understand that some people choose this way of life, but you must understand that the majority do not and that they feel stuck. So, help us carry them to independence. Let’s empower them to reach their full potential.
In conclusion, I request one thing: If you see someone you think might need help, ask them how they’re doing. Get to know your neighbors. It may be a life or death situation…saying hello and don’t just HAVE COMPASSION but BEING COMPASSIONATE could save a life.
To find out the ways in which you can give to those living in homelessness and poverty, please see our Donate and Volunteer page. Our main goal is to reach out to Veterans and Youth who are living in homelessness and poverty, but we will not turn away anyone who seeks our help.