What was observed during the experience?
I worked in a homeless shelter as a volunteer, and I must say it was one of my best experiences ever. The people in the shelter were people with a lot of problems in life yet they were very nice welcoming, and the experience was a complete eye opener for me. I had volunteered before, but I had never had an experience with homeless people. One of the biggest observations was that I saw that these were normal people. The view I had before about homeless people was very negative. I saw them as lazy, dirty and to me, they looked mad. I never knew what it took to be homeless but when I was at the shelter my eyes opened. These were normal people who just had it rough in life. They had nothing to hang on to but themselves and the shelter. They had no friends, no families and in the streets, they were met with a lot of indifference. However, in the shelter, they received a roof a meal and cared for the rest of the volunteers. They were joyous and had a lot of stories. Despite the many challenges in life I observed them and found that they were kind, caring and joyous.
How did the experience affect you?
During the volunteer at the shelter, I came to understand that being homeless is a very serious factor that can affect anyone. Certain situations such as sickness, destruction to property, foreclosure and other negative circumstances lead to people becoming homeless. I also came to understand that no homeless person imagined himself or herself in such a position and because of the fact that they have little control over the situation many people think that their homelessness is their fault and are quick to judge them. The experience greatly affected me because I was one of the people who had judged homeless people as dirty lazy and even mad and coming to terms with the understanding of what it takes for a person to become homeless was a shock to me. I found myself interacting with them very well; talking, laughing and cracking jokes but deep down I felt a little bit of shame because of the truth opening my eyes. The experience changed my perception of life and the society, and I felt very bad as to how the world treats homeless people. I now had the zeal to help them more and try to encourage them that things will get better.
What are the needs of the population that you interacted with for this assignment?
While at the center I came to know that homeless people lack some of the basic needs and one of them is the shelter. As a result of the lack of shelter, they leave on the streets where there is harsh weather, especially during the night. These are people who also lack a proper meal. They also lack medicine. The homeless shelter was very ideal because it provided them with most of the basic needs. Most of these people live on the streets in places infested with bed bugs and cockroaches. I came to find out that most of them die out there because of the harsh weather, starvation, and diseases they have which have not been treated. So some of the needs of these homeless people include, shelter, food, security and medicine. All these are needs that the shelter tries hard to provide to as many homeless people as they possibly can. The shelter also tries to provide them with the chance to have a bath for which they lack the opportunity to have because of living in the street. I came to learn how hard it is for these people to live on the streets. I also came to appreciate the effort the homeless shelter put to assist these people.
How can you make a difference?
Throughout my experience in the shelter, I kept on asking myself what has the society done to have so many people as homeless and yet nothing adequate is done to reduce the problem. There is a very big problem and homeless shelters only partially help but do not address the issues of why there are homeless people. These are normal people with no families and friends to help them. As a person touched by the situation, I would like to help sensitize the issues by creating more awareness about the issue of homelessness. People need to change their attitudes towards these people and try to help them as much as they can instead of judging them. We live in a world of interconnection and would be greatly engaged in teaching people about the need to help these people. The other thing is to increase my support for this homeless shelter and others that exist. As I saw through my experience, these shelters save a lot of lives, and people need to know how much they help. I would encourage people to offer their support to the shelters however they can serve such as through volunteering like I did and also through donations. These institutions need to be well financed in order to support as many people as they can. I would also try and encourage homeless people to give another shot at life.
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