When was the last time you had to think about where you would get your next meal, drink of water, or even where you would use the bathroom? These are things we take for granted every day. However, these are things that haunt a homeless person’s every moment. What do you picture when you think of a homeless person? I would guess it is similar to what I used to think of. An older man with messy hair and an uncombed beard, who probably smells strongly of alcohol and drugs, and came to be homeless from his own mistakes.
But what if I told you that the average age of a homeless person is only 9 years old. That’s right, a child is the real face of homelessness. Once I got past the guilt of stereotyping the average homeless person, I was ready to hear from Angela Gargano of Friends of the State Street Family to tell me how I can help.
Friends of the State Street Family was founded by Tami Fleming five years ago and has only just began their incredible work. It is run completely by volunteers and donations. Among the amazing services they offer some include: collecting and distributing basic survival gear such as sleeping bags, backpacks, clothing, and hygiene items, collecting and distributing food and water, connecting the homeless population with city services and resources when possible, and advocating and providing a voice for homeless citizens with city and government officials. They consider all types of homeless people and all types of conditions in order to change the devastating acceptance Madison has for homelessness.
In order to help raise awareness of the inspirational efforts of this organization, my communications class participated in a live-tweeting session to bring attention to the homeless epidemic in Madison.
We started by hearing some startling facts from Angela about homelessness and its causes. For example: approximately 26% of homeless people suffer from mental illness, the leading cause of homelessness in women is domestic violence, and there are codes forcing families to only acquire housing that the city allows for their family size. These facts and others were both shocking and heart-wrenching and I had my eyes opened to the truth about homelessness. It was unbelievably easy for me to passionately share these facts in hopes of opening the eyes of my followers or anyone who sees my tweets and even easier to share the ways in which we can help.
Friends of the State Street Family is unfortunately far unfunded and even less followed by the public. My first efforts were to share the pages and links from FSSF in hopes of reaching someone who wants to follow their efforts and make a difference. I then wanted to share the direct ways we can all change the lives of the homeless. From donating a pack of socks, to volunteering at a Saturday meal for the homeless, or even participating in street outreach to bring hope to individual cases; there are so many ways we can all help. Homelessness is not a permanent problem we should all accept; it is a resolvable issue we should all want to eliminate. That being said, despite all my passion for the issue, there were aspects of this session that were difficult.
I was excited by how eager I was to share all that I was learning but was quickly disappointed when I remembered that I only just created my Twitter and sadly have less than forty followers. This was upsetting for me because I wondered how many people I was actually reaching. That’s when I decided to tweet at Channel 3000. I may not reach the entire city on my own, but I will happily reach out to those who can. This experience was very eye-opening and I want myself and others to be a part of the change in homelessness and get people to rethink homelessness and end it once and for all.