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Archive for October, 2008

Happy Halloween!  Is there any better day of the week for Halloween than a Friday?  I think not.  And we here at the Center for Respite Care are making the most of it. We’ve painted pumpkins (pictures coming on Monday), compared costumes, decorated the common areas, enjoyed Buskens cookies (yum!) brought by a volunteer, and I’ve just been told that we’re stockpiling candy in anticipation of trick-or-treaters tonight.

Seeing the clients smile and enjoy Halloween activities is . . . amazing!  Check back next week for pictures of pumpkin painting (and painters!).

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Happy Blog Action Day!  Despite writing about homeless people and the medical needs of this population all the time, I sometimes forget to consult the panel of experts (often referred to as our clients) that hang out on the Respite porch every afternoon.  Today, everyone was playing cards.  They let me interrupt to ask this question about poverty: What does it mean to be poor? 

Being poor means .  .  .

. . .fear of the future.

. . .a certain state of mind.

. . .appreciating things more.

. . .being scared.

. . .being treated like a second class citizen.

. . .there’s nowhere to go but up.

. . .you work hard to change your life to make it better.

. . .being frightened.

. . .wondering where meals will come from the last week of the month.

. . .lack of knowledge, not having much self-esteem.

. . .lack of independence.

. . .being without and being depressed.  Every day of being homeless is depressing.

. . .insufficient funds.

. . .being lost in the world.

 

I bolded the answers that my “experts” liked best.  Those two responses elicited an immediate approval from everyone in the vicinity. 

Finally, do you notice now many answers revolve around fear?  For those experiencing homelessness, extreme poverty is more about fear than money.

Another tenet of Blog Action is discussing solutions to the issue.  This is a gargantuan task.  Money alone isn’t going to work – everyone at Respite told me that today.  Compassion would be a start, maybe a huge start.  There is so much animosity towards those who are poor in the United States.  We’re willing to travel extreme distances to help out abroad; what about those in our community who are in need?

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Are you registered to participate yet?

Are you registered to participate yet?

This year’s Blog Action Day has a theme close to the Respite mission: poverty.  Obviously, the population we serve here is 100% poor and under the poverty line, frequently to the point of have $0 income and no benefits.  (Yes, we make every effort to rectify that.)  This will be my first time writing for blog action day and I’m psyched that they chose a theme so near and dear to the population we serve.

I can’t wait to put together some thoughts and can’t wait to see what others (SLO Homeless, The Homeless Guy – please?) have to say.  One stipulation of the project is that each blogger write from his/her usual slant, so I’ll be edging in info on homelessness and medical care.

See you on Oct. 15th.  Until then – register, register, register!

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I was tag surfing today, checking out other blog articles on homelessness and found a great description of one woman’s first day at a homeless shelter.  It contains many of the details I’ve heard from Respite clients (about their stay at “traditional” emergency shelters, not a respite facility), along with the fear, worry, and unease inherent to the situation. 

As you can tell from the woman’s description, a typical shelter is no place for someone to try to recover after being hospitalized, having surgery, or being released from an emergency room.  There are showers and a place to sleep, but in the wee hours of the morning, each person must return to the streets.  For an injured person, this would surely contribute to repeat hospitalizations and ER visits.

Running a homeless shelter is definitely a balancing game.  If you provide more services, you serve fewer people.  If you try to serve everyone, you can’t provide as much help for each individual.  At the Center for Respite Care, we provide medical recovery and 24-hour shelter.  We have high success rates for our population, but we are limited to serving fourteen people at a time.  Luckily, there are other agencies in Cincinnati that create something of a safety net, but we do sometimes turn people away because we don’t have the resources to serve them.  On the upside, we’re the only agency in Cincinnati that providing this service and can hopefully expand our size in the future. 

If you’ve never heard of the Center for Respite Care (or other similar respite care provider for the homeless), I’d urge you to visit our website: www.homelessrespite.org.

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I fold and sort (thankfully) many clothing donations for the Center for Respite Care each month and I have some tips for potential clothing donors in Cincinnati or anywhere.  In fact, I received a wonderful clothing donation today from a local church group that refilled our dangerously-low t-shirt supply (that’s lesson one: homeless shelters usually need new t-shirts, socks, and underwear the most!) and provided some paper cups and plates as well.

After folding and sorting a well-prepared donation, I thought I’d share with you the best ways to make the most of your old clothing, just like today’s donors:

1)  Be hygenic: items like pants, sweaters, and even shoes can be donated with gentle wear and tear.  Who hasn’t loved a hand-me-down, after all?  Other items like socks or underwear are best discarded or recycled once you can no longer wear them.  Especially among homeless populations, health care is often difficult to access (unless you’re staying with the Respite!).  Used undies are more likely to carry harmful germs and bacteria than other duds.  Donate new items you find at a local discount retailer.

2) Stains are a pain: Although you may think that a stained shirt is better than NO shirt for a homeless person, please consider the self-respect of those who will wear your old clothes.  If a stain is the reason you are discarding an item, it’s time for the trash, not the donation pile.  By giving our homeless clients only the clothing we would wear ourselves, we’re valuing them as people and as equals.  Plus, think of the stereotypes for homeless people: dirty, lazy, and sloppy.  Donating unstained items helps break this stereotype and teaches homeless people that they have worth and deserve to be respected.

3) Washing adds value to your donation: Old clothes from your attic may be in great condition.  After marinating in mothballs, however, they’ll need a bit of sprucing up.  Consider washing your items before donating them.  Nothing says “we care!” like being able to hand a homeless person a freshly-laundered shirt.  Don’t have time?  Throw them into the dryer with a dryer sheet!  True, we could wash them ourselves, but this takes time, effort, and money.  Plus, it takes time away from providing our normal services.  Donating freshly laundered clothing helps us make the most of your donation, saves time, and keeps our storage spaces smelling fresh.

4. Pat yourself on the back!  All that sorting and laundering is hard work!  Give yourself credit for taking time out of a busy schedule to help people in need.  To add to the “feel good” factor, ask to take a tour when dropping off clothes to see your favorite agency in action.  Share what you learn with a friend!

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It seems that winter has struck early this year.  Not so much in terms of weather, but in the increased amount of homeless people needing shelter and medical care in these first few days of October.  I believe that most homeless shelters experience a similar, weather-related trend: in the summer, occupancy rates go down because it’s more comfortable to “sleep out.” 

In the winter, however, some people are forced to follow rules they might otherwise reject; stay sober or sleep in the snow?  I wish I could claim this was not the case, but it seems to be so.  On the upside, cold weather gives us a chance to reach and help more sick people.

Unusually enough, however, we have seen a recent, prolonged increase in referrals even though temperatures are hardly uncomfortable outside.  I wonder if this is a result of chance, or the economy (anyone else trying hard to ignore that?), or some other factor I haven’t considered.

What do you think?  Will the current economic conditions cause shelters nationwide to be flooded with fellow citizens in need?  Or is this trend a fluke?

Some industries applaud a waiting list of customers, but not us!  We’re happy to help and thrilled to be a part of breaking the cycle of homelessness for so many people each year, but it pains me to think there will be people in need whom we cannot help, perhaps in unpredented numbers.

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