Editorial: This holiday season don’t forget about those less fortunate

By Aislinn Walsh
December 10, 2019

Bright lights, a warm home and delicious food are all hallmark attributes of the holiday season. Can you imagine what your holiday season would look like without it?   

 Unfortunately, this is the reality for thousands of people.  According to the National Association to End Homelessness, there are over 13,000 Pennsylvanians who are currently experiencing homelessness.  Philadelphia accounts for nearly half that amount. 

The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services notes that “About 5,700 are considered to be homeless in the city [of Philadelphia], which includes about 950 who are unsheltered.” 

Although there are several non-profits and shelters, like Project HOME or The Bethesda Project, that provide support to people experiencing homeless, they cannot do it alone.  They need your help.   

This holiday season takes the plunge to help end homelessness. 

What you can do? 

Educate and Engage

It is also important to help as well as educate those who have never experienced homelessness. There are several stereotypes and negative connotations associated with homelessness. It’s a common misconception that people who are in this position because they have some type of mental health disorder or they are suffering from some type of addiction. Some even go as far as to assume that people are experiencing homelessness because they are lazy.

The reality for many who are unfortunate enough to go through this is that they are experiencing homelessness due to an unfortunate event that has taken a toll on them in life. This could include losing their job, a health problem, divorce or losing their main source of income in any way that helped them.

Donate Goods

As the holidays come closer and closer, it is easy to become materialistic and lose sight of what is important. It’s also pretty simple to forget about the less fortunate- those who are in need of a home, food, and employment. 

Spend a few minutes to clean out your closets. Haven’t worn that hunter green jacket since high school? When was the last time you used that grey blanket stuffed in your closet? Campus Ministry is running a gently used blanket and coat drive through February. In February, they will be distributing the coats to people experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. 

Going grocery shopping or making a Walmart run? Take a brief pitstop to the clothing and hygiene aisles to assemble a care package. Local nonprofits,  such as The Bethesda Project and Project HOME, will gladly take donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste, underwear, soap, shampoo, conditioner, and feminine hygiene products.  Hats, gloves, and scarves for men, women, and children are also needed. 

Show Kindness

How often have you ignored someone on the sidewalk because you were too focused on your holiday  “to-do” list?

The next time you come across a person who is experiencing homelessness, take five minutes out of your day to talk to them and show them that they are still human beings. Although it can be intimidating, a friendly conversation can go a long way. It reassures them that they are still worth respect and that their current living situation does not define them as a person.

During the winter months, temperatures can dip dangerously low to the teens and 20s. Philadelphia-based Project HOME has a 24-Hour Homeless Outreach Hotline.   They encourage people to call 215-232-1984 if they see someone experiencing homelessness.  

At the end of the day…

The main cause of homelessness is that our country, state and cities have failed to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of affordable housing. We provide money for mall expansion and parking lots. We encourage young professionals to move into the city. However, we don’t make sure that there is sufficient housing for people working for minimum or low wages.  Due to the rise of gentrification, housing that was once affordable has been converted into high-end apartments or townhomes.

Personal acts of kindness are important. However, until our country and region ensure sufficient affordable housing, we are applying bandaids rather than treating the systemic issue. Inform yourself about the root causes of homelessness, advocate for systemic justice and vote. Support Project HOME’s advocacy efforts.

 

Aislinn Walsh

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