This was a wonderful meeting in Santa Barbara! I learned a whole lot and was very impressed by the format and everyone.
I really enjoyed the question and answer part of the meeting. I will share with you some of the questions below and my take on them. If you have a special thought or would like to comment on each question - go for it! I would love to know anyone thoughts and opinions about these questions.
1. How do you know if someone on the streets is dangerous? What is my personal safety level when doing outreach?
You don't, and it is important - VERY important to be careful and one of the things I really respected was that Common Ground has a policy of going out in groups of at least two or more people. That said, DO NOT BE AFRAID to go shake the hand of a brother or sister on the street and give them the gift of being validated as a person just like you. This I have found is even more important than the food or stuff you can give to them. They want to be part of and if you can welcome them that is worth more than anything. Use your common sense and go have some fun meeting new friends! :)
3. Do I give them money, food or both?
Again use your own common sense and heart. If you like to work with a particular group of people then go to it. If you don't like to give money but like to hand out food as you see people in need, do that. Just HAVE FUN! :)
4. Should I have supplies like soap, socks, food, in a little care bag, etc... to give them when I see someone?
YES! this is wonderful!
5. How do we get them services that they need or we believe they might want?
If you want to act on behalf of someone that you think could use your services then YES try to help them. The system is complicated and hard to navigate. The more questions you ask and and the more people you talk to the more help you will get. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and remember that you just being with this person and by his/her side will help dramatically in getting services that are needed. You would be doing a great service!
6. Does every homeless person want a place to live?
NO. Some have PTSD from the war, some don't for a number of reasons and you should not try and pressure them if they are not interested at that particular time. You can maybe help them in some other way like sharing a meal or in some other way. Watch the body language and see what they want that day and time. You are there to help them and watch that you don't push your agenda on them. Just go with the flow and see what you can do and or just be there to listen..
7. What type of health problems are more prevalent?
TEETH. This is a major problem, people need more dental care opportunities. If someone could volunteer to get some Dentists on board to donate some time that would be awesome! :)
8. What do I do when someone appears to be drunk or high?
Use your common sense and set your boundaries up front a as quickly as possible. Do not stay in a unsafe situation.
9. What is the largest reason for homelessness?
There are so many different reasons! In my case it was due to a large extend to the current economy. Some people have disabilities and have fallen through the cracks. Some have medical bills and other bills that just were to much for them and they got caught in a downward spiral. Some are war vets with PTSD. Some lost there loved ones and got really depressed and could not afford to live by themselves. It goes on and on and the bottom line is that we need to step up and take care of our own. It could happen to anyone, anytime! When it happened to me it happened in a matter of a few days and I was totally blown away and surprised. Just try not to judge and to ask questions to learn about your new friend. Trust is huge and these people have been let down so the motto is "Under promise and over deliver".
Top 10 Myths About Homelessness
1. Homeless people are homeless by choice.
2. Homeless people are lazy and they just need to get a job.
3. Most homeless people are single men.
4. Most homeless people are addicted to alcohol and drugs and are mentally ill.
5. Homeless people are dangerous
6. Homeless people just "need God".
7. Homeless are uneducated and unemployable
8. Homeless people are a fixed population and usually stay that way for a long period of time.
10. Youth are homeless because they think it is cool and exciting and they want to live that way.
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