Monday, November 8, 2010

Opening Our Eyes to Homelessness

We learned a lot on our first day of Project Justice and as you'll see we had a surprise encounter as well!   At the end of the day, the students were asked to write down their thoughts about the day's experiences and now I'm looking at over 20 pages of their documentation.  Following are excerpts from their writing that summarizes our visit to The Haven at First and Market.  First, I want to thank Kaki Dimock, Executive Director, for taking time to really engage these children in thoughtful consideration of homeless issues and for our surprise guest for taking his time to meet and talk to the class.

"Today we went to the Haven… a place where the homeless can eat breakfast, find jobs on the internet, garden, learn art and culinary skills, do their laundry and sleep if you need to."

"Getting out of the bus we ran into Tom Shadyac, the famous producer / writer / director of Evan Almighty, and many more."

"After he finished his film, Tom noticed all of the homeless people around, and so he bought the church and donated it to the community.  This was how the Haven came to be."

"Before today, I had no idea how many homeless people there were out there.  It was startling and sad."

"I was sort of freaked out before we went to the Haven.  I thought there were going to be lots of drunk people. All the people at the Haven looked very nice and friendly."

"When I first heard we were going to a homeless shelter, I was a bit nervous of what it was going to feel like to interact with the people."

"We talked about when we hear the word homeless and what came to our minds.  Some of the things were fire, the railroads, people we know, and people we see often or repeatedly."

"We thought maybe they became homeless because they have mental or addiction problems."

"A lot of our stereotypes are wrong.  One example is that when we think of being homeless, we picture it a long maybe even lifelong experience, but 80% of homeless people get a home in under 2 years."

"I was shocked to hear the the largest-growing sub-group of people in the group of homeless people were homeless families and homeless kids."

"Taking the steps, we came to this place that looked kind of like when you check your bags/coats at a museum.  Turning to the left there was a cafeteria with a few round tables.  Walking farther in we noticed to doors leading into the kitchen, some of the people out mingling were very nice.  The kitchen was big and very clean."

"We saw lots of people and we got to see what many of the homeless did.  There were a couple on computers and some doing laundry. "

Touring the Haven "changed the way I saw the homeless".

"Learning about homeless people changes my perspective on how different our lives can be from theirs."

"Before I went to the Haven, I thought that it would be sad and depressing, but over all it was a happy place."

"The Haven is doing a lot of work to help homeless people become not homeless. I really learned a lot about the homeless and that we shouldn't take things for granted."

"We saw these paintings done of 'home' by homeless people in art program, and it was really touching to see this one house with an oak tree and a pond and a grassy yard. It really was special to me because that person who drew it had probably never lived in a house like that and it was probably their dream house, and I did live in a house like that. It kind of made me feel sad that that person had had their dream home be like that and I lived in a place like that."

"If your life takes a tragic dip, one of the greatest place to be is the Haven.  The doors open at 7:00am and close at 5:00pm.  They have everything from experts to help you get your resume into place to yoga classes."

"Amazing enough the Haven is not a government sponsored place. They work through donations only."

"Although it doesn't cover all of the problems of homelessness, it is still a great start, and also the Haven in and of itself is very friendly and provides many of the necessary services to those in need."

"Being homeless is a big problem, but there is lots of hope.  There are a lot of things even you can do to help.  By donating food, appliances, money, supplies, your time, or even educate others about the topics.  And you never know, in the future it may cease to be a problem!"

Check back soon for the students' thoughts on their visit from the International Rescue Committee.

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