Broke, hungry and help are the words you see on the handmade cardboard signs held by the almost 4,000 homeless people in Philadelphia. Of those 4,000 people, how many have you spoken to or asked “why are you homeless?”
Does our neglect come from a belief that every person should take care of him or herself or is it because we believe they are homeless due to an unexpected situation that has put them in that position? When we drive through center City, how many of us are compelled to lock our doors because we fear the homeless?
One Cabrini class, Engagements with the Common Good 200, provides us students with the opportunity to actually meet some of the homeless and hear their stories through organizations such as Project H.O.M.E. and Bethesda Project. See our featured article on page 8 to hear one man’s story of going from middle class success to nothing. Loquitur hopes that through classes like the ECG course, people can become more exposed to the reality of this horrible situation.
Project H.O.M.E. and Bethesda Project are organizations that welcome both homeless people and inner-city youth to move towards a brighter future involving employment, education and security.
H.O.M.E. focuses on rebuilding and renovating the run-down homes of Philadelphia and finding the less fortunate people that meet the criteria to be granted the new housing. Cabrini students specifically work in a branch of H.O.M.E. called Honickman Learning Center, located in North Philadelphia, which provides many programs including after-school care for students from kindergarten to sixth grade with comprehensive literacy instruction along with art, music, photography and technology classes offered.
Bethesda Project has a branch called Our Brothers Place, which is the organization for men only that Cabrini students are involved with. Their duties include preparing meals for the homeless and more importantly, getting to know their stories. The handful of students helping out say they feel they are taking away from the course even more than what they put into it. OPB teaches those living there the benefits of doing work. They are rewarded with simple things like priority of sleeping arrangements and guaranteed meals by volunteering at the home.
Most of us as students have not been exposed to witnessing such poverty. At Cabrini we are fortunate to have courses that help us learn about real-life problems because most of us have little comprehension of the poverty that exists minutes away.
Loquitur sees the lack of attention to our brothers and sisters without a home as a dire problem that must be addressed. We need to move beyond the stigma that homeless people are bad and dangerous. As many students in the ECG course have learned, the simple act of learning someone’s name has made the world of difference.
According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the Department of Welfare was cut nearly $58 million in the 2010-2011 budget. These funds provide essential services to the most vulnerable people in urban Pennsylvania. This department helps those suffering from mental illnesses, behavioral health problems, domestic violence, rape crises and provide homeless assistance.
To truly address the problems of poverty and homelessness takes more than donations. If the Pennsylvania budget has been cut so drastically, we need to speak up and try to get these essential services restored. We must educate ourselves about the lives of these individuals. Many stories the students have learned helped them understand that the homeless may have ended up in their place because of an accident or a fate of bad luck.
The insight of a world we’re unfamiliar with may lead to something special. Loquitur asks you think differently the next time you walk past a homeless person asking for help.