A grassroots nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting world peace by bringing together people of diverse cultures and backgrounds; providing interfaith spiritual support to those in need; and engaging in local and global humanitarian outreach efforts

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Week #5 "10 Week Countdown to World Homeless Action Day"


(Send Media Release August 22nd/ Post September 5th)

This week’s Big Idea: Volunteer for a Homeless Services Organization

Have you ever volunteered at a homeless day or night shelter? Take the time to do so this week. Be sure to call ahead to make arrangements with shelter staff. See Week #4 for a list of local Homeless Services Agencies.

1. Introductions

Treat the person as you would anyone else. Introduce yourself and learn his/her name.

2. Does the person want information about local resources?

If they are new to the area, you might be able to give them helpful information about resources they could use, especially resources that shelters might not typically mention, such as various Houses of Worship or a list of free social activities in the area (book clubs, knitting groups, concerts in the park, etc.)

3. What Do They Most Need Right Now?

The best way to help is to find the point of greatest need and that might be as simple as having you listening to their story.

4. Can You Share a Meal with Them?

Offer to have a meal with them. A meal can ease the flow of conversation. You could also invite them to attend your House of Worship or a community activity.

5. Would They Like to Share Their Story?

The answer to how they became homeless will vary widely. Be prepared to hear some painful stories.

6. How Do They Survive?

You might be surprised to find out where people sleep, how they make money, and where they get food.

7. What Would They Want Other People To Know About Them?

Questions about this give the opportunity to go deeper.

8. What Do They Hope For Their Future?

People, who are experiencing homelessness, are often short on hope. You might be able to help them envision a brighter future for themselves.

9. If They Could Have Three Wishes, What Would They Be?

This is a classic question used by Mark Horvath in his InvisiblePeople.tv interviews. Watch a few of his videos to see how easy it is to talk to someone, who is un-housed.

10. Is the person actually experiencing homelessness?

In reference to people you may come across on the street versus at a shelter, don't automatically assume that a panhandler or person sitting on the sidewalk is homeless. They may have a place to stay, but choose to panhandle due to lack of finances. Even if they're not homeless, they could have a significant need.

(credit: Portland Homeless Rescue Mission, Portland, Oregon USA - http://www.1010pdx.org/search/label/Top%2010)

Note: When interacting with strangers in general, use common sense and always keep your safety in mind.

Blog Question: There are plenty of other good questions and conversation starters out there. What ones would you add?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Week #4 "10 Week Countdown to World Homeless Action Day"


(Send Media Release August 15th / Post August 29th)

This week’s big idea: Learn About SLO Organizations Serving the Homeless

Statistics and stories shed light on the plight of homeless men, women and children. Use these online resources to expand awareness and inspire action.

1. Community Action Agency of San Luis Obispo


The Community Action Partnership's Homeless Services program offers emergency shelter, on-site information and referral services, and assistance in finding permanent housing

2. County Office of Education, Foster & Homeless Youth Services


The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education’s Foster and Homeless Youth Services is committed to guaranteeing that all foster youth and homeless youth in San Luis Obispo County have access to the same educational experience and resources as all students.

3. Department of Social Services


The Department of Social Services provides assistance with cash, food, housing and Medi-Cal benefits.

4. ECHO (El Camino Homeless Organization)


El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) provides meal, shelter and support services to the homeless and hungry of northern San Luis Obispo County. elcaminohomeless@yahoo.com

5. Grass Roots II

An emergency food pantry, community clothes closet, and source of assistance/information and referral. The mission is to "improve the quality of life" in our community and we tend to address unmet needs- serving those who slip through the cracks of our safety net programs. Grass Roots II can be located at 11545 Los Osos Valley Road Suite A 1, San Luis Obispo. Office hours: MWF 9 -12 & Tu-Th 10 - 2 or by appointment. 805-544 2333

6. Prado Day Center


Provides essential day-to-day services for homeless members of our community. Meals served by People’s Kitchen, showers, laundry facilities and other vital services are available. The road of self-sufficiency is also aided with assistance for those seeking employment, housing referrals, social services, and enriching activities for the children.

7. Transitional Food and Shelter, Inc.


Provides 24-hr. /day shelter for homeless disabled in San Luis Obispo County (services by agency referral only) pearltrans@aol.com

8. Transitions-Mental Health


Transitions-Mental Health Association (TMHA) is a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the stigma of mental illnesses, maximizing personal potential, and providing innovative mental health services to individuals and families in need. We offer a full spectrum of programs in San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara Counties. Our mission is to help children and adults live, work, and grow.

9. Women’s Shelter Program


"The Women's Shelter Program is committed to recognizing and responding to our community's need for comprehensive multicultural domestic violence and child abuse services…it is our goal to stop the cycle of violence by providing crisis intervention, emergency shelter, advocacy, treatment, prevention and education."

10. Common Ground Worldwide


“Earth Angel” Project provides knitted & crocheted hats & scarves for local shelters. Interfaith Prayer Support is available for un-housed folks via email: commongroundworldwide@live.com (put “Prayer Support Request-SLO” in subject area)

Monday, August 8, 2011

WEEK #3 "World Homeless Action Day Countdown"


(Send Media Release August 8th/Post August 22nd)

This week’s big idea: Observe Where Folks Are Actually Sleeping

In San Luis Obispo County, there are over 3,700 men, women, & children without a home. There are only 200 shelter beds in the area and that means 3,500+ people have nowhere to sleep. It is also illegal to sleep outside or in your car. Obviously, people have to sleep somewhere.

Living without a home of your own is a devastating experience. But sleeping without a home is downright difficult. Some of these places receive media attention. Others may surprise you. But all of these overnight accommodations are completely unacceptable for regular human habitation.

1. Storage Units

Many have called storage units the modern-day cardboard box. Sure, they're not ideal, but they’re dry, secure and beat the dangers of the street. And they offer a way for people to keep some of their belongings rather than abandon them or have them stolen. Often storage companies have surveillance and do not allow people to sleep in their rented units.

2. Cars

Living out of a vehicle may seem like a bearable solution to losing one's home. But when your home is on four wheels, it's impossible to sit still. Each day, you must be on the go to evade authorities and the expensive citations for illegal parking or sleeping in a vehicle (Yes, there are ordinances against this.). You sleep with one eye open; you can never be perfectly at ease. And the nomadic lifestyle makes it difficult for homeless organizations to stay in touch to provide help. Some communities are now offering “Safe Parking” options, where people can safely park in lots, which are not used during the night.

3. Motels

Cheap motels became the newest thing in subsidized housing and the de facto shelter for families affected by the recession in 2009. For families, it's an affordable alternative to shelter and safer than the streets. But with cramped rooms, unsafe conditions, and little space for cooking (if that is even allowed), it is far from a good alternative to safe, decent housing. And when money runs out, families are back on the street.

4. Tent Cities

Since the economy has been hurting, homeless encampments have sprung up in communities across the U.S. Some - like Sacramento, Providence, or Seattle (Nickelsville) - garner lots of media attention; others go quietly unnoticed.

5. Parks

After walking all day or night, it’s tempting for a homeless man or woman to stretch out on the lawn or a bench for some rest. Parks are open to the public and a decent place to get a nap during the day. But sleeping in the park at night is usually interrupted by police asking offenders to move along or giving them citations for “illegal camping.”

6. Streets

While it may seem counter-intuitive that a homeless person would choose to stay on the streets rather than in a homeless shelter, there are understandable reasons for doing so. Shelters tend to attract people who are chronically homeless, addicted, and/or physically/mentally ill. This can be frightening to someone newly homeless or to those who struggle with mental illness or social phobias.

7. Foreclosed Houses

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes are boarded up, idle and empty. At the same time, homelessness has been on the rise and the need for decent affordable housing is as great as ever. It comes as no surprise that homeless men and women choose to become squatters in vacant homes.

8. Abandoned Buildings

Much like the situation with foreclosed homes, there’s no shortage of empty warehouses and other business buildings where homeless men and women take shelter.

9. Couches

When homelessness strikes, friends and relatives are often the first place of refuge. Homeless families and individuals sleep on couches, in garages/sheds, and backyard tents. Although they are technically homeless, they are unseen and left uncounted in an official homeless census – until the hospitality wears out. Then, they end up on the street.

10. We Don't Know

For all of those homeless individuals whose unfortunate living situations are documented, recorded, and broadcast to the public, there are hundreds more who remain anonymous. The methodology for finding and counting homeless people is imperfect; we simply do not find everyone.

(credit: http://www.change.org )

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Week #2 "10 Week Countdown to World Homeless Action Day"


This week’s big idea: Challenge Your Thinking

What are your assumptions about homelessness? Like most issues, there is far more to homelessness than the stereotype.

1. Most people who are un-housed are middle-aged men.

For many, the word “homeless” conjures up images of scraggly men standing on street corners holding cardboard signs. In fact, the fastest growing segments of the homeless population are women and families with children.

2. They need to “just get a job”.

Getting a job is a challenge for most people these days, and incredibly difficult for a person, who is un-housed. Most lack transportation, a permanent address and phone number. Others may have learning disabilities and lack of education that holds them down. Even if they find work, their low income often cannot pay for housing.

3. They are dangerous.

Life on the streets can be perilous for men, women, and children, who are experiencing homelessness. But, very few crimes are committed by homeless people against the general population. And, in the case of volunteers and staff, who are trying to help them, the attitude most often seen is one of gratitude.

4. They are lazy.

People who are un-housed are often sleep-deprived, cold, wet, and/or sick. Their minds, hearts, and bodies are exhausted from trying to survive on the streets. Though help is available, they may have no idea where to begin navigating the maze of social service agencies and bureaucracy. With no transportation and little money, they can spend all day getting to food and maybe an appointment before they need to search for a safe place to sleep. And they do this while lugging their precious few possessions along with them in a bag or backpack. It is not a life of ease.

5. People are homeless by choice.

No one starts life with a goal of becoming homeless. People lose jobs and then housing. Women leave their homes, often with children in tow, to escape domestic violence. Many people have experienced significant trauma and simply cannot cope with life. Others struggle with mental illness, depression or post-traumatic stress. Outside circumstances strongly influence the choices they make.

6. If homeless people wanted to, they could pull themselves out of it.

Once a man or woman loses a job or a home, getting those things back can feel nearly impossible. Imagine trying to get a job when you have no address to put on a resume, no phone number, no shower and no clean-pressed clothes.

7. Providing food and shelter only enables people to remain homeless.

Food and shelter are essentials for life. By offering these and other outreach services, like restrooms and mail service, we build relationships with people in need. Then we’re able to offer them something more through various programs, like counseling, addiction recovery, emotional healing, spiritual guidance, education, life skills and job training.

8. If we provide sufficient affordable housing, homelessness will end.

Certainly, housing is a basic necessity in order for people to then more easily move forward with their lives. Putting a roof over the head of a deeply hurting person will not heal emotional wounds, create relational stability or establish healthy life skills. As a result, housing alone may not keep a person housed. Supportive services are often needed once a person, who has been homeless, is housed.

9. Homelessness will never happen to me.

People, who have experienced homelessness, can attest to the fact that they never intended or expected to become homeless. They’ve had solid jobs, houses, and families, but at some point, life fell apart. They are desperate for a way back home. Given a certain set of circumstances, including natural disasters, ANYONE can become homeless.

10. Homelessness will never end.

Many U.S. cities have established ambitious goals with 10-year plans to end homelessness. While these plans to provide housing and better centralized services to homeless people are important in reducing the scope and duration of homelessness, they will not completely eliminate it everywhere for all time. But homelessness does end—one life at a time. With your help, we continue to restore the lives of hurting men, women and children every day.

(credit: Portland Homeless Rescue Mission, Portland, Oregon USA - http://www.1010pdx.org/search/label/Top%2010 )