101 Ways to Help
Awesome Lia. I am a firm believer that nobody should go without food, shelter or medical care here.
I find a lot of people are hard on those who are living on the streets. Expecting that they are just lazy, drug addicts and so on. That is ridiculous. I tell them we have no right to judge. We have no idea what they’ve been dealt in their lives.
My son always asks me for money when he sees someone begging. It feels good for him to hand over a few dollars or watch me buy someone lunch. My kids were with me the day that we were in Cranbrook Christmas shopping and Kadie got out of the truck and dropped her mitts. Quite a few people noticed but didn’t say anything. The one person who did was a homeless person pushing all their belongings in a cart. That taught them a big lesson about not judging a book by its cover.
I always love seeing the little homes communities are building for the homeless or the buses that are going around with food or showers. I want to do more. It breaks my heart that some don’t have a warm place to go or a enough food to eat. It must have been so rewarding to work and volunteer at such a big shelter. There is a new shelter in Cranbrook. I will see if the kids and I could volunteer our time there once in awhile.
I really agree Amber: especially with your statements about judgement and assumptions. As is often the case, you have taught your children well in this, showing empathy and compassion are so often underrated.
Yes, a call to the volunteer manager at the Cranbrook shelter to enquire is a great first step.
I have such a hard time with homelessness. There is so much of it here in Hamilton, lots of social welfare. I am so emotional about it, and it quickly turns to anger.
First angry at the person for choosing to live that way – most of it I find impossible. I mean, how is that a choice? But it is. In some way it is, and I have to respect that. Anger is certainly not helpful, or respectful.
Then I am angry at myself for those feelings. I feel intense shame for having those thoughts, and for blaming that person for their choices – or choicelessness. In those moments, I actually choose not to give change because I feel like that belittles them, they’re generally sitting and I’m standing over them, and yes, I definitely do have judgement about where that money gets spent. Those are my actual feelings in the acute moment. If I have food, I will give that, but I honestly find it so odd how many of those exchanges do not connect that the food is a necessity.
Then I find myself angry at the whole “system”, all of them, all systems combined that allow this, or create this, or support this, or somehow conclude that homelessness is an option. Those thoughts lead directly to those feelings of societal hopelessness, that there is no good in the world, and it’s all a sham. How do we let these people down, and yet, how do we keep them all afloat.
For me, either way, right or wrong, my feelings about this leave me totally distraught. When I don’t help, my heart is broken. When I do help, I feel shameful. I get angry. I pass judgement. It can take hours to recover. I get flashes of the person in my mind for several hours afterwards sometimes. I am still having flashes of a woman outside of the LCBO when I went there Monday. I cannot get her out of my mind. He lower lip was split. I feel shameful, useless, and angry if I look into her in my mind.
MY solution to this, is to give to local food banks. I buy the food; I give the donations. I also give most of my old stuff – clothing, housewares – directly to the places that help these people. I watch out for those here in Hamilton. Churches usually advertise on their signs in front of the building. I sometimes include gifts in with the stuff, or wrap something that would normally be a gift. It’s my way of infusing joy into the old things. I pack in thoughtful and healthy foods. In general, I think about it. I think about giving these things directly to a woman like the woman I witnessed Monday, and I imagine it changing her life. Recently, I have been donating everything to a local church that sorts these things and gives them to new refugees in need.
It feels amazing. I’m not sure of course who exactly gets these things from me, but they all come stinking of my love and best wishes for that person. It is always possible the shirt a woman receives from me is the one she wears to an interview. She feels amazing. She gets the job. I believe that is possible, and I definitely believe it is possible to affect her that way.
Yes, yes, yes. So many feelings about this, just as you have stated, shame, hopelessness, all of it. I think it’s great that you’ve addressed these feelings a bit with the donations. I do the same, especially my professional office clothes – I give them to an organization that helps support women as they re-enter the workforce (interview clothes).
There is a group here in Hamilton that does a “purse project”. I missed it last year by just a few days, but I am filling a couple of purses I don’t use anymore with “stuff” for a woman in need. The idea is to give her a new or gently used purse, and fill it with all the little things she would need, but perhaps not think of as she is starting her “new life”. Toiletries, pens, a note book, some jewellery. Socks, stockings. All those “extras” that she would not likely be able to get from a shelter or a thrift store. It’s kind of fun actually, a bit like a stocking, and when I learned about it, it was an article about the success of the project. I already know that it works.
The purses I’m giving are small, so I have a bag to go with them. The purse itself will be like the little car attached to the back of a motor home. The initiative is built on the feeling of safety and preparedness a woman gets from having all that she needs in her handbag. I love this project particularly because my Nana used to travel to England once a year to visit her mother, taking with her only a large handbag. She had a set of clothes at her mother’s home, but in her handbag she had all these amazing things, and often when she returned, it would take a few weeks to empty all the things out of it. She loved to be “ready for anything”! I remember her always laughing and being really happy telling us all about the things in her purse. The funniest one was a pair of disposable underwear. Great laughs.
This project resonates with me especially, thinking of the freedom that accompanies preparedness and safety. There is also something in here too about how many of our little idiosyncrasies live inside our handbags. I certainly know who I am when I dump mine on the floor. I certainly have everything I need in mine.
My favourite little gift in the bags is a beaded key chain. It’s where I infused my wish of a new life for the women who receive the bag from me.