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Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit’

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I’ve known a few people who made it through medical school living on Ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese, so when a group of 1st year medical students decided to prepare and share dinner this week, I crossed my fingers.

Little did I know, however, that these future physicians were going to whip up a meal that was both delicious and healthy.  Even our client from Serbia (whose English is improving) proclaimed the meal “very, very, very good!”

I’ll admit, I nabbed a couple bunches of  grapes.  So delicious! 

These students are just a fraction of our newest volunteer group from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine.  They’re serving meals, interviewing clients, playing games, and bringing snacks as part of an ongoing project to benefit the Respite.

Plus, they sat down and ate with the clients!  I encourage every group to do this; sharing a meal relieves the potential awkwardness of  two groups of strangers meeting.  Plus, the clients usually tell the staff afterwards how much they enjoyed a homecook meal.  This way, they were able to tell the students directly.

There is always a need for physicians with experience treating homeless people.  Of course, a person is a person, but the experience of homelessness is a unique one.  While we benefit from the students’ efforts in the short run, we know it will be the homeless community that benefits long-term.  

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A few weeks ago, a new client arrived at the Center for Respite Care with a horrific case of frostbite.  Freezing rain splashed off the sidewalk as he gingerly walked to our front door with only bandages on his feet.  The frostbite was a result of working as a parking garage attendant.  Today, he is healing, but still faces toe amputation. 

Personally, I’m not a fan of cold weather.  Our current weather makes me want to hide underneath the covers–or, at least, it used to.  One recent morning, I woke up and immediately decided I had left a window open.   I dug out my trusty thermometer: fifty-eight degrees!

I called my landlord, but ten days later, the whole building was fifty degrees.  The landlord came over, but it was too late to call for repairs.  We went without heat that night.

There is a big difference between having some heat and having no heat.  I piled three comforters on the bed, cranked up a tiny space heater, and shivered.

My heat was fixed the next day, but not everyone is so lucky.  In fact, every night in Cincinnati, hundreds of homeless men, women, and children are without heat and shelter.  Unlike me, they have little hope of reprieve until summer.  What little time and money they have go toward finding the next meal, tracking down loved ones, and waiting for benefits such as food stamps and rental assistance.  The unlucky ones develop pneumonia, frostbite, infections, and cancer.

If you’re snowed in today, appreciate your heat!  And consider helping your fellow citizens find shelter, heat, and medical care.  The economy is tight for everyone, and no group feels this more acutely than the homeless.

To make a donation to the Center for Respite Care visit our website.

Check back soon for Respite in the news.  (Hint: did you see Respite in the Enquirer last Sunday?)

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Reading other blogs about homelessness is a curious thing.  There are blogs by those who are or have been homeless, those who work or volunteer with a homeless clientele, and blogs about other topics that mention homelessness once in a while (typically when the author has an encounter with a homeless person).

The most frequently commented upon blog articles seem to be those about an individual’s first night of homelessness.  I admit, I frequently leave comments on these articles myself.

Why is it that we’re so sympathetic to the person who experiences their first day of homelessness, but callous toward the person who has been homeless for months or years?  It’s a matter of perspective.  The person spending a stray night in a homeless shelter could well be us, we think.  

What if we lost our jobs and had a concurrent major illness?  What if a loved one (or ones) passed away suddenly?  What if . . . whatever combination of tragedies it might take.  I think we’ve all had thoughts that it could be us.  For some it might take more tragedies than others, but the possibility is there.

In considering the chronically homeless person, we’re less sympathetic.  Why?  Because we believe we cannot sink to that level.  We would pull ourselves out or find help somehow.

We may be able to make the leap to understanding who someone (even ourselves) can become homeless, but we believe that if you’re homeless for more than a few weeks, well, you must just be lazy.  Or ignorant.  Or an addict.  Why don’t they just get jobs after all?  Or just apply for the loads of benefits we finance through our taxes?  Or get social security?

We fail to consider the psychological effects of life on the streets.  It takes many of our clients several days to warm up to staff at the Respite and our mission is to help them.  Imagine how difficult they find it to reconnect with family and friends.

And all those “free benefits”?  True, they’re out there.  But how long can you afford to wait?  It can take weeks to qualify for food stamps, months to gain tenant-based rental assistance, and years to be awarded social security disability.

As for employment, would you hire someone who admitted to being homeless?  How about someone who claimed to have stable housing, but was mysteriously never home when you called?  Would you hire someone with dirty fingernails or ragged clothing?  Maybe you would.  Then again, maybe you’d prefer to hire the clean-cut teenager who made the honor roll last quarter.

Are we really as impervious as we believe?  Or is the hard truth that homelessness, once it happens, can be nearly impossible to escape?  How many of these truths do we ignore because they are simply too frightening to accept?

The ultimate truth is surely more complex, but everytime I read comment-loaded articles about an individual’s first terrifying night as a homeless person, I wonder.

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I read as many blogs about homelessness as I can.  It helps me keep abreast of what others are thinking, and how homeless issues are perceived in other communities.  Some viewpoints are almost expected, others are just discouraging, and the best ones impact my perception of homelessness and the Respite’s role in serving our community.  Three of my favorites from the past couple days are below.

1) Burned to Death for Being Homeless  – The title, unfortunately, gives you a good idea what this article is about.  I’ve read at too many similar articles in recent weeks and months.  Without being sensational, I wanted to share this one because despite the horrific nature of these incidents, they continue.  The idea that a life might be extinguished for entertainment underlies the most base societal attitudes about homeless people: that they are not human, not even less than human. 

2) Where’s the Messenger? – This article is a good read for nonprofits serving the homeless.  It closely examines our duty to educate the public, not just fundraise.  While “raising public awareness” does, I’m sure, factor into most nonprofit’s goals, we don’t always do as much as we can.  Let’s face it: between serving our clients, connecting with supporters, friends, and volunteers, maintaining our grant support, valuing staff, and dealing with daily crises (broken computers, squirrels on the porch, inspections, power failures, leaking washing machines), well, maybe we don’t keep this function in mind as much as we should. 

3) Why do you look away? – Some of the most powerful blog entries are those written by homeless people themselves.  This one talks about the flip side of homeless people on the streets.  I see tons of articles written by people who encountered a homeless person during the day.  Some express remorse for not being able to help, others show guilt or pity, and a predictable portion express disgust, even rage.  This article is a sobering look at the flip side of the situation.

Is there an article about homelessness that caught your attention lately?  Share a link in comments.

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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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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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