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The Homeless

Coming from a much smaller city of Sioux Falls, I wasn’t use to seeing homeless people. But then I thought, why we should have to get used to it. It’s a staggering issue that needs to be addressed. One of the first homeless people I saw was here on campus. I didn’t recognize it at first, but then I noticed each morning when I got there early she had slept on the couch that night trying to beat the bitter cold. On one occasion I saw her snatch a morsel of food out of the garbage when she thought no one was looking and quickly stored it in her bag of items she keeps with her (probably all she owns is on her or in that bag.) It’s a gut wrenching feeling to see, and when I thought about it later I was overcome with sorrow for this dear woman. Homeless can be defined as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.? Why stop at this idea of “nighttime? residency, when we can do so much more. There are nationwide statistics that can be overwhelming, so let me narrow the perspective to the local Metropolitan area. In Hennepin County there is over 3000 people estimated to be living in these conditions. Each night there’s an expected 350 people forced to sleep on the streets because of overcrowding in shelters. If you’re wondering what type of people are typically homeless, let me say there is probably someone a lot like yourself. Homeless doesn’t care about race, age, or gender. There’s a wide spectrum of people in serious need of medical treatment, nutrition, and a decent night’s sleep. Most people think of drug abuse first when talking about the homeless, but there are other reasons as well. Some of those reasons being medical issues, financial hard times, or more recently natural disaster.

homeless1.jpg
Picture can be found by going to http://images.google.com/images?q=homeless+pictures.

Wondering how to help? There are many organizations established to help meet the most basic needs. But the plates don’t serve themselves and donations won’t get up and walk to the nearest shelter. That’s right it takes you! There are food shelters that provide some nutrition to those that would otherwise starve, and shelters that provide a nighttime bed to sleep in. Almost all places will accept donations, for they provide vital funding to continue their services. Whether that be non-perishable foods like canned vegetables (corn, beans, peas, etc.), canned fruits (peaches, pears, pineapple, etc.), or boxed goods like macaroni, crackers, and much more. Also commonly overlooked is deodorant and razors for men to shave with, or deodorant and other feminine products for women to use. Along with this short list, things such as toilet paper, toothpaste, and brushes are also very helpful. If it’s more convenient for you to make a cash donation, remember no amount is too small and every bit helps.
Most programs aim to aid the homeless from night to night, and provide a meal to give them some nutrition. I decide to take a look at a pilot project that actually gives these people their own apartment and assists them with the rent until they are able to find a job and get off on their own feet. The program calls for 45 million that will be invested over the next 3 years (that’s about 15 million a year). The investments to proceed will come from the city, state, federal, and private donations. The money is used to build a new community center that is able to determine what kind of help the individual needs (socially or mentally) and help those find a job to create a stable source of income. The money will also be used to find homeless people apartments to live in.
While most programs have a step program starting out in shelters every night, if there is room, and then working their way up through 3 to 4 levels before having independent living. The problem here is no real progress being made and the people resort back to their old ways and becoming repeat cases, not only are they homeless again but take up old tendencies like drug use. This new pilot program offers hope to these people and a chance to start over again. While this may seem drastic and radical, consider recent polls state that it would me more cost effective to eradicate homelessness then to simply maintain the status quo. This program not only helps the individual but the community as well. The idea is to provide workers to fill required jobs, while generating additional income used in our local economy. Having a home is a big boost of confidence in the individual and integrating them back into society is something this program offers that others do not. For all the skeptics out there, I want you to know a similar project in Boston NY has had great success and a single team in under a year so far was able to find homes for 90 singles adults that had been homeless for an average of 11 years prior. That’s 1 less homeless person every 4 days.
I feel as a citizen of this community we are all obligated to do our part. No matter how big or small there’s something for everyone to do. For those of us that are financially stable think of the satisfaction and joy it would bring knowing you helped someone less fortunate then yourself. Put yourself in their shoes many of them did not have a choice to become homeless. One doesn’t choose to get laid off or develop a Social and or Mental illness.