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Posts Tagged ‘FACES of Homelessness’

What Their Stories Can Teach Us

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Speakers' Bureau

The following piece is a speech that was presented by a participant of the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau after her trip to Washington, DC:

Someone once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

Before DC, my Faces of Homelessness Speakersclassmates and I were just like everyone else, we feared what we did not understand and therefore we did our best to avoid it. We go about our lives ignoring the bad, because we believe it cannot happen to us, but honestly, I don’t think any of us truly believe that.

It is crazy how one moment can alter your entire outlook on life, making you realize that up until that moment, you had not understood life itself. After a day of lobbying in DC, we went to the Thurgood Marshall Community Center to hear a program on homelessness. We would be hearing stories from people who had once been homeless and were now sharing there stories with others.

As a normal teenager, I was thinking, “This is gonna be boring, hopefully I will be able to take a nap.” But, from the moment the first man opened his mouth to speak, I was hooked, and by the end of the program, I found myself in tears. Whether they were tears of sorrow for those people and what they went through, or tears of my guilt in feeling so unaware of what is going on in the world, I knew from that moment I had to help. I know my classmates had that same feeling too. As we walked out of the building to the metro, there was a homeless man sitting on the steps of a restaurant, I opened my wallet along with my other classmates, and put in a dollar. The look on his face was priceless, and from then on, the rest of the trip we all decided to help the homeless, not only by giving them money, but most importantly, by letting them know we cared.

On our last night in DC, about five of my classmates and I along with Rabbi Ed wanted to do one last thing. After dinner, we walked over the pharmacy and bought packs of goldfish, granola bars and Koolaid. We each chipped in about two dollars, and with that we were on our way.

We were on a search to find those people in need, the ones who get ignored on the streets, the ones who are looked at and thought of as lazy and dumb. We were on a mission, that mission was to find those people, and not just to give them the food we had bought, but to make them feel like they weren’t alone in this world, and to let them know there were still people who cared and wanted to help them.

From DC I learned a lot, but I never thought I would view homeless people to be an inspiration. Each morning they awake to nothing, looking for somewhere to go, for food to eat, and shelter for warmth. These challenges all arise to them before we even awake in the morning. We go about our days complaining about our gross school lunches, our lack of sleep, our loads of homework, and much more. But, we never stop to think of how amazing our lives are, and how we should thank our parents for everything they do for us, and how in one moment all of that can be gone. We could have everything taken away from us at any time, our family, friends, house, school. But no, we don’t think about those things. Why you might ask? Because we don’t believe it could ever happen to us. Until now.

So I would like to thank my parents, friends, and Rabbi, for helping me open my eyes to the real world that surrounds me. And lastly, thank you DC, without you I would still be in fear of what I did not understand, but now that I understand it, life seems to mean all the more.

-Jamie Goodman
John Burroughs School

Living My Uncle’s Story

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Speakers' Bureau

The following was written by a recent college student participant of NCH’s Homeless Challenge program, as a reflection on the experience:

“When I entered the world of the homeless all I had were the clothes on my back, a sleeping bag, and the preconceptions and stereotypes I had created throughout my 21 years of existence. Having grown up with an uncle who struggled with homelessness for a length measured in years, I thought I knew it all. But you can’t truly understand what it’s like through a story.

Forty-eight hours may not seem like a long time now, but those two days held a week’s worth of activities and a lifetime’s worth of change. We walked many miles, mostly because when we weren’t walking, we were cold. When we got tired of walking, we watched businessmen walk past us. We became invisible. We got used to being invisible, we took advantage of being invisible, and then we got sick of being invisible. We appreciated the small things. Celebrations were often but short lived, like smiles. We befriended pigeons, squirrels, and other homeless people, the only things not scared of us. We experienced the homeless community. We made friends. We saw the city.

We scoured the trash. We searched for caring eyes, but instead found averted eyes. We went crazy. And we became sane. We found the meaning to life, the importance of friendship, the power of money, and the makeup of happiness. We transformed.

When we finished the challenge, we had the opportunity to hear the Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau. My uncle and two other wonderful speakers stood at the front of the room, taking turns sharing their stories to a room full of transfixed students. Hearing my uncle turn back the pages of his life, recounting his struggles and tragedies, my mind was reeling with empathy and understanding. I have lived my story for 21 years.

But for the past two days, I lived his.”

Speakers’ Bureau Update

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Awareness, Speakers' Bureau

The Speakers’ Bureau is currently in the process of creating a new orientation manual and at the same time is in the process of recruiting new speakers-in particular women and families.  This summer we have had meetings with representative from Community of Hope and JHP as well as meeting with N Street Village and Miriam’s Kitchen in hopes of recruiting new speakers!

One of our speakers, Maurice King and I were interviewed by a Blogtalk radio station in Colorado Springs, CO on Saturday, July 25th.

The first National Homeless Persons Memorial Day Committee meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 29th 3:00pm at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless office at 1200 U Street, NW…..all are welcome to attend!

On August 1st at NCH at Noon about 15 individuals who have experienced homelessness will be attending and meeting with Mischa Fisher who would like to create a Photobook: “Biographies of the DC Homeless Community.”

Our next Speakers’ Bureau meeting will be on Saturday, August 22nd and we will have a lot to talk about with new speakers, photobook project, Homeless Persons Memorial Day, Living Wage rally, workshops and other projects…..

The Speakers Bureau spoke to 27 groups in July!  We currently have 13 scheduled for August including one at Boston University on August 25th in my home state!

Looking forward to keeping you all posted on the going ons of the speakers bureau and please feel free to respond and if you have seen a speakers panel please post your feedback!  If you are interested in becoming a speakers please let me know and if you would like to start a speakers bureau post it here!

Thanks and that’s all for now!

Michael O’Neill
Director, Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau

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