From Foothills Member Anne Fisher
I have been a volunteer for Homeless Gear for a little more than 4 years. I volunteer for two of their programs — Street Outreach and the One Village One Family program. When I first started coming to Foothills 2 years ago, I quickly became engaged as the Homeless Gear Village Liaison to Foothills. As many of you know, our Villages have now accompanied seven adults and 24 children into stable housing. I have served on three Village, two with Foothills. I hope some of you will consider joining a Village this year.
Today, I would like to share some of my experiences with the Street Outreach program. You may be less aware that there are three of us from Foothills that go out once a month. Our goal is three-fold:
- to build relationships – providing hope and companionship
- to deliver life-sustaining supplies – food, warm clothing, blankets and sleeping bags in the dead of winter, and tarps and rainwear in the pouring rain
- to connect the homeless to available resources – making referrals to other services that are available in our community
Not long ago, I met a young woman who was living out of her car. When I talked to her, I learned that, until recently, she had been living with her abusive father. She had decided she had had enough. Because she had nowhere to go, she is now homeless.
As we talked, I sensed her strength. Obviously, she had the strength to move out of an abusive home. I asked her if she had a job – many of the people we meet do work, but they cannot afford housing based on their low wages.
She did not have a job, but said she wanted to get one. I referred her to the Homeless Gear Hand Up program that successfully placed 193 people into jobs last year and 39 so far this year.
On another cold night, we met a woman and her husband, complete with a stereotypic shopping cart. In the cart were two large black bags that I assumed were their life’s belongings. She was dressed in a skirt and blouse, and a lightweight sweater – not much clothing for the anticipated 14 degree temperatures that night.
It turned out that those two black bags were indeed her prized belongings – they were her two children, 5 & 6 years, who were fast asleep in the cart. We gave them food, warm jackets, hygiene products, and talked. We got them connected with the Murphy Center for Hope where we can hope they get case management and other services to help them move on. Maybe, one day, they will become a candidate for the One Village One Family program.
What I have learned is that the homeless are often the victims of circumstances – they have been laid off from a job or are veterans from Viet Nam, Iraq, or Afghanistan who now suffer from PTSD. But ultimately, the people we meet are people like you and I. They ask for relatively little. They are vulnerable, often alone, and I am constantly overwhelmed by how incredibly grateful they are for little we can offer. I also know that by reaching out with courageous love and building these relationships with people experiencing homelessness, I have been transformed.