Meeting the residents for the first time

A few nights ago I was asked to stay late and attend a meeting at the new James Widener Ray Homes building to tell them about the event we are planning. We (the development staff) were there just to announce that the main entrance doors would be closed off during the event but we winded up staying for the entire community meeting.

The way this building is set up it to actually build a community neighbordhood within the apartment building. It reminds me a lot of the community you would find in a college dorm. Inside the building is a fitness center, a library, a computer room, and a common area or community room. Project H.O.M.E. invites local chefs for cooking demonstrations a couple times a month and movie nights take place often. All of these little things really impressed me. It reminded me of a word I learned in Guatemala-Subsidiarity.

In other words, they didn’t just build this building, found poor people that needed a home, dropped them off and left them there. They provide these people with a home but act as a lifelong resource. At this meeting they listened to the people’s concerns, asked them what else–do THEY think–can help break the cycle of homelessness. One man raised his hand and said that there are people who are homeless and not visible. They don’t hang out on busy street corners, but maybe in the woods. He had friends who suffered from mental illness and drug addition who spent in the woods in the dead of winter. I thought that was amazing that the Project H.O.M.E. staff were able to hear first-hand where the need is greatest and how they can help.

This meeting was another community event that brought the people together to not only have fun and enjoy the snacks and entertainment, but to talk about serious things like voting. Project H.O.M.E. has an education and advoacy team that makes sure the residents have an opportunity to advocate for homelessness, and are in the loop with policies that are helping and hindering the efforts to break the cycle. At the meeting they handed out voter registration cards and made sure each person was registered to vote. They opened the floor to ask the residents why voting is important. A woman named Hyancinth, a former homeless woman who is now employed by H.O.M.E. said that voting is more than who you elect, but it’s to show the people in power that we are participating and we do care what happens to us and we are watching what you are doing to help or hurt the people of the community.

After this powerful discussion Sr. Mary Scullion, the co-founder of H.O.M.E. and the legend I had heard about prior to applying for this internship introduced herself to the residents and formally welcomed them for the first time. The way she spoke to them, with such passion for the cause, you’d think it was her first time because it was SO genuine. Later, my boss told me she probably delivers a similar welcome speech on a weekly basis. You would never know. The people respect her and were visisbly gracious for the work she does to save the lives of many people I met that night.

Each day I come in to this place I’m reminded of the hope for alleviating poverty. I really think there are enough people out there who care enough to devote themselves to it, and I’m glad to know some of them.

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