[pictures from Homeless Connect Billings via Julia Guarino Flickr]
I had a great opportunity today to take part in Project Homeless Connect on behalf of the library. For those not aware…
Project Homeless Connect is a one-day, one-stop event that has been recognized as a national “best practice” in the fight against poverty and homelessness. The event is designed to provide a safe place for homeless or near-homeless individuals and families to access numerous forms of assistance in a caring, one-stop setting. Examples of services offered include housing, job connections, medical care, and legal aid. For community members struggling to get by, gaining access to these key services is more essential than ever.
Much more than a venue to provide services to an underserved community, Project Homeless Connect is a humanizing effort to create a bridge to a segment of the community that most of us ignore daily. Even when tossing change to someone on the street, we rarely make eye-contact and prefer these ghosts to dissipate and wander off while leaving our own hungry ghosts to starve..
By having community agencies, small businesses and volunteers providing a welcoming and hospitable environment we provide a much-needed face to a long-standing “faceless” issue. By providing what some would consider “comfort” services as hair, skin and nail care along with dental, medical and financial aid we present the understanding to our community that we are all the same, just in different circumstances. And one thing binds us…
We all like and deserve to feel human.
That is the lesson I take away from this event. So, please, if you want to be an engaged Buddhist, Christian, Humanist or ‘other’ please take a moment and consider planning an annual event such as Homeless Connect. Don’t consider it charity to the homeless. Consider it outreach to the interconnectedness of us all. Consider it teaching the public and commercial sector of your community that they hold fast to a stigma that no amount of money will remove. Get everyone present to provide what they can towards the humanization of people that we usually consider on the fringe rather than at the heart of our community.
Hell people, it was even held in the basement of a church and other than a few second degree burns from the Glory of Christ and a misplaced tub of holy water, I walked out pretty much unscathed. Perhaps a wonderful way to have some different sanghas to come together and connect with compassion.
If you are interested in organizing such an event, please give it a shot with the following resources (The Rapid City event was organized by two YFS employees with the aid of many caring and interested parties and is completely possible to build from the grassroots level).