Been awhile since I posted but that’s because there’s always more to do than there are hours in a day! It’s that time of year again to go back to tending my micro urban farms to help those who cannot find enough help to make ends meet but before that, I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing and that’s helping homeless to survive another winter. It’s always refreshing though, to run into other individuals doing what they can to help their communities be a better place for everyone regardless of what other people think. That’s why I tell people to grow a tough hide out here because the more you start making an impact, the more static you’ll get from the status quo!
Just to give you an example of what a typical day is like out here, I’ll share with you how this morning went. First call of the morning came from my very first homeless volunteer, Betty. She found Jay, a local disabled homeless man in a wheelchair, sitting outside of a Valley Cities Mental Health services office without his wheelchair. Turns out it broke down and a church had given him two walking canes to get by on but using them is a big strain on Jay. Betty went to a local senior center before Valley Cities opened to see if she could find a spare wheelchair he could sit in for awhile but she didn’t stop there. She got on the phone and called Jay’s caseworker from Health Pointe and they were on their way with a new chair for Jay. This isn’t the first time Betty’s sharp eyes have caught other people in need when no one was around to help. That’s another fact of life out here. Often, it’s other homeless people that come to the rescue because there isn’t much outreach going on in Kent unless it’s to recruit you into somebody’s church services or….a drug dealer looking for a new customer and for the youth, it’s usually recruiters from local gangs.
Betty has let me know of pregnant women and families with small children living out of their cars or sleeping at parks simply because she’s like me and does her daily walks to check and see where people are and how they’re doing. Nobody is paying her to do this and I don’t get paid either. Sometimes Betty doesn’t feel well but that doesn’t keep her down and if I can help her with rides (when I have gas!), bus fare or help with groceries, it just makes her life a little easier and provides her the support she can’t find anywhere else.
I happened to be in Auburn this morning doing one load of laundry (that’s all I could afford) before the library opened but once it was finished, I drove around the block to check on the older car dwellers to see how they made it through the night. Sure enough I found another gal I met at another park a few months ago, doing her own community outreach to the “campers” needing food. I asked her how the good fight goes in Auburn and discovered that she had been helping a family with small children to stay at a motel for a month because after all the running around they did with local service groups, they couldn’t get help fast enough to find shelter in the cold windy rain we’ve been having. Even though her finances were already strained to the limit, that didn’t stop her from helping others who have it worse than she does. That’s what outsiders often do not understand. For the folks who are out here or have been out here, the sense of urgency is acute. If we don’t act as soon as possible, somebody will die out here. Now this gal needs help making up the rest of her rent and I’m hoping folks who are reading this will make a donation to help her out IF they are able to.
Come hell or high water, for those of us who know what the reality is out here, we often have to make personal sacrifices because there are no options we can conveniently wait around for. When people are desperate, they will do desperate things to survive even if it’s negative so I don’t judge people for that. I do however, take issue with folks who do nothing to alleviate poverty when they have the power to do so but don’t. This isn’t about enabling people others are quick to judge, it’s about providing our own support system to keep from spiraling further and further into hopelessness. People trying to help themselves will get burnt out sooner or later chasing around dubious services but they keep looking for them anyway. Problem is, it’s taking too much time to get help and that’s why I do what I do. I see the reality every day because I’m still living it myself!!
To those who take up advocacy, I give you these words of advice. Don’t worry about the negativity of other people who aren’t doing what you’re willing to do. There’s no one way to help people and it’s a learning process to find out who is worth your trust but if you don’t give up, the right people will come into your life at the right time. The trick is not to let yourself get distracted by other people that don’t share your vision. I would also say to do your best to take care of your needs by not cutting too deeply into your own resources but I do understand that in some cases, it’s damn near impossible not to. We already know we’re on our own since there’s a never ending onslaught of budget cuts to state and federal programs. We already know people are afraid to step out of the safety of their own comfort zones to care about anybody else. We also know that people are quick to judge instead of actually doing anything but we also know we can’t quit. We may never know the impact we make on other people’s lives but I’d rather do what I can when I can than regret it later.
Just know that your efforts, no matter how big or small, made the world a better place for the people you chose to help.
Thank you for all that you do and thank you for taking the time to read this!