So many of us, when walking or driving around, we see the people holding those cardboard signs, those who seem less fortunate than us. What we never realize or never even think about is the fact of how many there are. We never think about who they are or their circumstances surrounding how they got there. We never realize what types of experiences that they have had to get to where they are. I am one now to think about what is available to them nowadays and not feel as sorry for them. But also at the same time, I never think about what they may had gone through during their time of homelessness, who they may of encountered, how many bad experiences they have had to not even want to go into a shelter.
The homeless point in time count started today. It actually started for me on last Thursday (January 19) when I went to the team leader training. When I first heard about this homeless point in time count, I was very intrigued by the idea of getting to do something like this just for the fact of being better able to understand more of the idea of where residents who live where I work could of came from before going to the shelter. Homelessness has always been a curiosity of mine because it never makes sense. Now since working at the shelter it has made me have even more questions especially about those who are panhandling on different streets. There are so many resources available for these people where they could have three meals a day as well as most of the time a place to sleep and even people to help them find a home and get health services. All these questions that I have have led me to want to participate in this count just to find out more about how people on the street may live.
Starting out, the training was very interesting. The people were organized but could be better so. One of the most interesting aspects of this count for me was the veteran portion. They are wanting all veterans that we meet on the street to automatically go into a shelter that night. And then they said that they would find them shelter within 48 hours. For me that seems a bit surreal. The training overall allowed me to learn a lot. The only difference between the team leader training and the normal volunteer training was the fact that we got to learn about our route to find the homeless people. In the training we learned about the survey as well as the different crisis methods (in case there happened to be one). We also got to meet people who may also be on the team. In my case, the other team members of mine had gone to the training the previous day so I was unable to meet them until Sunday night (January 22). Overall I felt that the training was very productive and it made me even more excited for the event itself.
On the Sunday night, the excitement happened. We were supposed to meet at 7 pm at Our Daily Bread. Originally, I had no idea where that was, so I planned on driving there. When I put it in my GPS though, I found out that it was only 0.4 miles from where I was, so in the beginning I felt quite stupid. In the end though, it was OK cause I had to drive around for about 20 minutes trying to find parking. Each time that I went to the training places I found it very interesting. Since being in Baltimore I have been able to learn a lot more about the different homeless resources and where people can go to get help. But I had never actually seen the different
properties. So being able to go into both Helping Up Mission as well as Our Daily Bread makes the words actually have some pictures to them. It helps me to see how well put together they are and how they can be so successful. Both of the places are quite big buildings and they allow a lot of people to be in there at once which is a great help when there are so many homeless in Baltimore that are needing more resources.
Both nights of the count we were provided with pizza for dinner. The first night though, was the night that all of the people on the team met. My team in itself was quite small, we only had 5 people on our team. In the end though, it was perfectly fine cause we drove most of the time and only needed to take one vehicle. We were assigned to the area around Federal Hill and down near Fort McHenry. We didn’t encounter many of homeless people on the street the first night, but the first one we had I had pointed out because it looked like a person, but I wasn’t for sure. In the end though, we encountered about 5 people that night, 3 of which completed a full survey. Overall I was very pleased with the first night.
The second night was just as eventful as well as it went smoother. That night as well I was able to have a friend join on our volunteer time. We did not meet as many people that night as well. I was able to point out another person though that was not as noticeable from the vehicle. He was one who was noticeably mentally handicapped. He got very nervous when most of the team was surrounding him. One of the people on the team was one who carried around things to give out to people he encountered, so he was able to give him a new blanket. After that I asked him again if he would be willing to and he accepted after I asked if it was only me.
After that experience when we were back in the vehicle, one of the other people on the team asked me what my major was in university. I told her that I majored in International Studies with a minor in World Languages and Culture. She told me after that it was very surprising to me because of the fact that I have a natural helping ability.
After I heard that, it just made things clear for me. Since I started working here at Project PLASE, I had considered different paths for what I should do after this year. I had been considering a master’s degree down the path, but didn’t even know what to do. But I was leaning towards a Social Work degree. After this women told me that, I was just like, OK, its going to happen. I don’t know when I will start it, but I will definitely be moving my way to getting that degree.
One impressive thing that I realized from this Point in Time Count was how dedicated Baltimore is to trying to drastically reduce homelessness in the city. The mayor was present at the first night to give a short speech. It impressed me that she was willing to come and talk to the volunteers are wanting to help to count the people suffering with this issue.
This experience for me has been one to make me think about a lot. It has made me realize that people have different experiences in different places. We may think we are doing best for them, but in some ways, it may be making things worse for people. Sometimes people may not want our help. One of the people that I met during this experience was one who wasn’t homeless in his mind. He may of been homeless in my mind and others’ minds, but in his, he has they says “home is where the heart is.” He is happy where he is staying, so why should he move? With that in mind, sometimes we need to think about other people and try to put ourselves in their shoes. Sometimes, what we think may help, could also hinder.