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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Helping the Homeless

As I use a push cart to transport large amounts of art supplies from place to place in Washington DC, I am often treated oddly by strangers on street or in the bus. I will be wearing my old paint clothes and have buckets and brushes and bags of supplies. I will push my cart and say hi to folks. I am acting the same way I would if I were wearing a nice dress with a briefcase in my hand. I am being friendly and open and it is amazing how many people will not look me in the eye. They see my cart and swerve their body direction. They march quickly by and focus their eyes far into the distance. I do not exist to them. If I have far to go, I will load my over-full cart onto the bus. I watch as a few passengers move and sit several isles away. No one wants to sit beside "the crazy cart lady." I quietly laugh to myself, but I am feeling a touch of the despair and isolation, that is part of life if you are homeless.

Have you ever been homeless? Have you ever worried about where you might rest your head each night? Hopefully, you have not had to deal with this problem on such a personal level. Hopefully, your experience with homelessness consists of helping out at a local shelter or soup kitchen. But if you have been in that place in your life when there is no safe home to go to, you probably prayed there was a shelter willing to take you in.

Many years ago when I was 17 and my sister was 15, we ran away from home. We left with our mother's blessing, as our father's drunken violent outbursts were getting worse. We each packed our school bags with some clothes and walked down the street in darkness. We had no idea where we supposed to go. I had an abuse hot-line number that we called using a neighbor's phone. There was a shelter willing to take us in. We went to the shelter and spent almost two weeks at the facility.

The staff and volunteers at the shelter were so kind. They helped get a court order preventing our dad from being within 250 feet of us. When I showed signs of anemia, they had me checked at a local hospital. As an uninsured teen, I was amazed they would have me checked because I "might" have something wrong. In addition, they provided balanced meals that the staff encouraged us to help prepare. I learned more about proper nutrition during mealtimes at the shelter, than I had ever learned at home or school. At the end of the two weeks, my Mother decided to leave my Father rather than lose her daughters. It was a hard decision, but the those two weeks of us away gave her the courage to make that decision. We were so fortunate we had a shelter to go to.

Not everyone is fortunate. In Washington DC, we had massive over-crowding in our shelters during the winter season and funding is scarce. What can you do to help out? You can encourage the city administration to fund and support housing and shelter initiatives in DC. You can volunteer and get to know our local homeless brothers and sisters. Or You can buy Street Sense magazine each time you pass by a vender.

Another way you can help is to donate to the St. Paul's Lutheran Church Rummage Sale to be held on May 1st, 2010. All proceeds will go to support the in-house homeless shelter and other homeless charities in DC. The Church will accept any sellable items during set hours the week prior to the sale. Full information about the event is posted below. I am sure you can find items you no longer need that can be sold to provide shelter for people who have nothing at all. I myself, I'm trying for a 50% reduction of the "stuff" I own. I may live in a smallish apartment but I am sure I can part with quite a bit of things if it means someone else will get to eat. I hope all of you can do the same. I look forward to seeing you at the sale.

Community Rummage Sale

Sale to be held at

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

proceeds will help fund the

St. Paul’s homeless shelter


other local homeless charities

May 1st at 8:00am to 1:00pm

Please Drop off Donations at

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

4900 Connecticut Ave. NW Washington, DC 20008

Small item drop off Sun-Thur: Books, Clothes, Knickknacks, Toys, Small appliances, Etc.

(Please Drop off Large items on Friday the 30th)

Drop off available Sunday the 25th 12:00-3:00pm

Mon. 26th,Tue. 27th and Wed. 28th 3:00- 6:00pm

Thursday 29th & Friday 30th 3:00pm-7:00pm

Tax receipt is available at time of Donation.

Questions? Regina Holliday at

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story and for this reflection on the isolation that many homeless people experience in addition to physical deprivation.