There was a time, a month or so ago, when I was actually looking forward to winter. I couldn’t wait to start wearing sweaters (and buy more), decorating, shopping and cooking for the holidays and watching the snow fall while sitting comfortably curled up in my favorite chair in front of the TV. The first snowfall was so exciting. I went outside and took pictures, then quickly went back in to take my place in front of the TV under a blanket. Ahh, that was a good day. Well, here we are. Its winter alright and boy is it cold outside. It seems like everywhere I go it is all everyone talks about; “How much longer is it supposed to be like this?”, “I need to go away on vacation to someplace warm”, “It was so cold this morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed”, etc. Sounds familiar, right?
While most of you can relate to this, there is something else we need to think about. Or should I say SOMEONE else? There are hundreds of people in our community who are not as fortunate. They don’t have the luxury of curling up on their favorite chair watching the snow. This is nothing you haven’t already heard.
But, did you know that on a single night in January 2008, there were 664,414 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons nationwide?
This shouldn’t be a surprise to us; with the rising number of layoffs and increased numbers of foreclosures, our nation should be questioning just how many of our neighbors can’t make ends meet.
According to Ct Coalition to End Homelessness, in 2009 there were approximately 4,154 people who experienced homelessness in CT and 677 in New Haven alone.
You may not have noticed this because most homeless people do not live on the streets. Many individuals, and especially homeless families, are hidden from our view – they live doubled up in apartments (couch surfing), in emergency shelters, transitional housing, abandoned buildings and even in the woods. Shelters are over capacity (40% over in 2008) and it’s not getting any better.
So, while you’re sitting inside your home, on your comfy couch, in front of the tv in your pj’s, think about the people who are less fortunate than we are. Think about the people who get kicked out of shelters at 7:30 in the morning to roam the streets looking for work and food until they’re allowed back in or the people who don’t know where they’ll find their next meal. It could be you some day or a family member or a friend. What would you do???
It got to thinking about the people living on the streets in this cold weather. I went through my closets and pulled out coats and hats and warm clothes that we don’t wear anymore. Then I ventured down to my basement this weekend and gathered items that I’ve been meaning to give away; glasses, plates, lamps, etc. and loaded up my truck and brought them to Furniture Co-op in West Haven. http://www.nhhr.org/what-we-do/furniture-co-op.html They are part of New Haven Home Recovery and they collect furniture and give it to families and individuals who are transitioning from homelessness. It felt great to be able to help people. My next step is to clean out my garage which is full of furniture; chairs, table, dresser, etc. and load up the truck again.
There are so many ways you can help right now by giving, advocating and volunteering. Everyone has a role to play in making our communities a better place to live and work. Here are some suggestions to name just a few:
• donate to charities that are on the front lines providing the services to help people move out of homelessness.
• donate food to a food bank,
• serve a meal at an area homeless shelter, prepare sack lunches or, better yet, gather your family and bring a home cooked meal to a shelter and play a game of checkers or monopoly with a families,
• volunteer your time,
• donate clothes, toiletries, furniture, books and household items.
Think about all of the unnecessary expenses you incur throughout the week. Pass on that 2nd cup of coffee (or third), bring your lunch to work, go out to dinner less, and skip that blockbuster movie that’ll be out in video soon anyway. Try it, give it a week and see how much you can offer to people in need. It adds up and it could be adding to the solution if you think about it and just do it.
If these suggestions are not an option right now, there’s still something you can do. Educate yourself, your friends and family members. Do the research, do the math; just do something. Write a letter, call your state representatives, and spread the word. Visit our website uwgh.org to find out more. It is the one-stop shopping for all your philanthropic needs!