Thursday, December 3, 2009

Human Solutions

This is kind of a long post, but please take a few minutes to read through it. It is so very important.

Last night, Michelle and I dropped off bags full of gloves, scarves, and hats at the Human Solutions Warming Center in NE Portland. We have become familiar with warming centers in the area ever since last winter's Arctic blast came through in mid-December.

This year there are more homeless people than ever before, at least in our lifetime. They are scared, cold, hungry, and losing hope quickly. Entire families have been displaced because of job loss, mounting bills, and the economy in general. Just a couple of years ago, these same families had "normal" lives. They had hopes and dreams. They had aspirations and plans for the future. Now, they wonder where their next meal is coming from and where they and their children will sleep tonight. It's a truly awful and desperate situation. But, this is an area that we can make a big difference. Here's a link to the impact that Human Solutions was able to make last year.

As we were dropping the items off at the warming center last night, the coordinator for the center, Blanchette, asked if Michelle and I would like a tour. We said we would and she showed us their facility. The top floor of the center, is wall-to-wall cots. They can legally house 60 people there every night. Once the center is full, they have to turn people away at the door, sometimes giving them jackets or blankets for the cold night ahead. The people there ranged from single men and women to 4 or 5 person families, some with very young children. There is a kitchenette area with a small refrigerator, a few cupboards and a microwave. There really isn't a place (or hardware) for people to prepare meals, so there are a lot of cup-o-soups and nutrition bars.

She then led us downstairs where they have a makeshift storage area. Here is where they keep some extra clothes and food to hand out to those in need. Sometimes, in very harsh weather, they will use the basement as an overflow area. People aren't allowed to sleep downstairs (fire code), but at least they can get out of the elements for a short time.

We then spoke to her at length about what the center needs to be the most effective. Keep in mind that the age ranges from newborn to adult. Here is a list of some of the items we talked with her about:

Clothing- Especially socks and hoodies. Backpacks are another much needed item. Of course, any type of clothing will help someone. They just had a local bakery donate 200 coats of all sizes, so there are doing okay for now on jackets. Other than that, anything will help.

Food- Food that doesn't take much (or any) prep is great for them. They mentioned cup-o-soups, energy bars, fruit, etc. etc. Breakfast items that children can eat on the way to school is another big need for them. Here's a link to a wish list that they have.

Christmas decorations- This might not seem like a "need" but we think it might be more needed than a lot of things. They have no holiday decorations at all. They would like to be able to put up lights and other decorations, if for no other reason, to lift every one's spirits for a day or two.

We also spoke about how volunteers can help. Here are just a few of the ways Blanchette mentioned:

1) Someone with the time and supplies to come down to the warming center and help make some old-school Christmas decorations. Paper chains and snow flakes that the children can make and hang around the warming center.

2) Anyone willing to transport people to another shelter. When they have to turn someone away or when a family is moving to another, more long term, shelter, they would love for someone to be able to take them, instead of just giving them the address and making them find their own way there.

3) Perhaps someone could come into the center and read stories to everyone, especially the children. Or maybe just bring some general crafts for everyone to enjoy. Anything to let these people know that they have not been forgotten by society.

4) Any person, or group, willing to bring hot or prepared meals for everyone would be more appreciated than you know. They had a group from a local business office bring in an entire Thanksgiving meal for people staying at the shelter. Soups, stews, chilis or even sandwiches would be a welcomed sight at the center.

5) Something else Blanchette mentioned was perhaps getting stockings for everyone for Christmas and filling them with fruit, candy, gift cards. The families staying at the center don't have any type of storage area, so they have to take everything with them when the leave the shelter every day.

6) Just general, everyday volunteering. Their dream is for someone to show up and say "put me where you need me". Anyone with a little time is more than welcome to stop by the center to lend a hand.

These are just a few of the ways we can help out. If you are at all interested in volunteering at, or donating to the center, please call Blanchette at 503-810-1352. The hours for dropping off donated items is 7pm-10pm ever day, but I'm sure they would accommodate for your schedule.

Again, we think this is a wonderful organization and they are truly making a real impact in our community. Please try to lend a hand to them this year.

Thank you to everyone and we hope to see you all soon!

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1 comment:

Shannon said...

Human Solutions is so grateful for the work YOU are doing - and it is truly the volunteers who make a difference with our work! Thank you ALL for the time you have spent to make the days better for people who are going through a rough time. It really means a lot.

-Human Solutions Staff Member