I am a mother of three and I live at the Center for the Homeless. I came to the Center because of domestic violence. My kids are the most important things in my life. I came here because I didn’t want my kids to grow up in a household where domestic violence was present. I am currently looking for a job and until I do find one, I rely on the donations that are given to us from the community. Two of my kids wear diapers that people donate to us. We have an excellent daycare facility here at the Center. Our daycare is better than most daycares outside of the Center and it is the best daycare that my kids have ever went to. Our daycare facility needs the diapers, high chairs, and the toys that you donate. When we put our kids on TV and we are asking for help, we are not exploiting our kids. We want the community to see the kids that they are helping. I think that the people that have something to say about the Center should take a trip here and actually see where and how we live. I came here to better my life for me and my kids. I could move out anytime but I don’t want to move out and live in an unsafe neighborhood or rely on government assistance. The Center has done a lot for me and my children. Most of the kids here call the Center a home. They are not embarrassed to live here and most of the kids don’t get made fun of for living here. When a guest walks through the doors of the Center, we have to work on getting back on our feet. There is no such thing as slacking around when you are at the Center. I think that before you judge us or anyone else that is homeless, I think that you should walk a mile in their shoes. I would also love to provide a stable and safe home for my kids too.
Indiana University South Bend Student Government Association Presents: Michiana Dance for the Homeless (MDH)
That's right! IUSB in partnership with South Bend's Center for the Homeless, are proud to introduce the 1st Annual "Michiana Dance for the Homeless," a 24 hour Dance Marathon benefitting the South Bend Center for the Homeless.
But what is a dance marathon, you ask? Quite simply; it's dancing, playing basketball, listening to live music, watching performances, and many other activities, all crammed into a single 24 hour stand-a-thon for charity!
This event is open to the entire community, not just IUSB students, so get your dancing shoes on, and help us break the cycle of homelessness!!
When: Saturday, April 19, @ Noon until Sunday, April 20 @ Noon--24 hours!!
Where: IUSB's Student Activity Center
If you would like to become a "Dancer" in the event, visit the website and register; you may also contact me.
**College students must raise a minimum of $250 to be a "Dancer" in the event, and high-school/community members must raise $100.**
Let's break the Cycle of Homelessness, One step at a time!
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website:www.danceforthehomeless.com Office: Student Government Offices Street: 1700 Mishawaka Ave. SAC #202B City/Town: South Bend, IN
It's very dark on South Michigan St. at 11:00 at night. Despite the orange glow of streetlights, and the waves of headlights coming intermittently from the south, the night feels very dark. And it's silent. The traffic gives the night a quiet hum but if you walk out from the front doors of the Center for the Homeless, after being around 175 voices all day, the sudden voicelessness is eerie. So I don't walk out alone. I have one of the homeless guys walk me out.
The first time I ever worked with the homeless, for one summer in college, an aunt of mine was sincerely alarmed. She was shocked that my mother would let small, naive me work among all those dangerous people. I wasn't too certain what to expect myself. But mid-summer when one of the men living at that shelter helped me evacuate the building during a small fire, I learned that homeless does not mean dangerous. I was reminded of this recently when some teenage girls I know asked me whether I was ever afraid, working at the Center for the Homeless. I mentioned that leaving late at night sometimes can be a little creepy but added that all I have to do is ask one of the guys to walk me out.
"You have the homeless men walk you out?" one of them asked, surprised.
"Yeah, you know, one of the trustworthy guys that I've known for a while ..." It had been so long since I'd been afraid that I was really confused for a moment by their confusion. I'd forgotten that "homeless" can sound like "dangerous." Because I never feel safer than when I have James walk me out.
I can't remember when I first asked James to walk me out, but soon enough he knew the routine. He'd see me finishing things up around 10:45 and settle down into a chair to wait for me. Eventually he would check ahead of time - "You working late this Tuesday?" Whenever he walks me out, he does a thorough check of my car - peers into the backseat, makes sure I lock the doors as soon as I get in, makes sure my car starts. Sometimes he'll bend down to make sure no one is hiding underneath the car. Nothing has ever been amiss, but if it had been, James would have known it.
Cari, who works Tuesday nights with me, commented once that people are sometimes afraid to come here, but it's really scarier to leave. Inside, we're safe. Safe, and taken care of. I've seen people carrying each other's children out during a fire drill. I never have to lift anything heavy at the Center because the guys will offer to do it, for fear that I would hurt my little back. I can't go outside to take out the trash because someone will take my trash bag from me before I even get outside, because it's cold out there. All these little ways of taking care of each other. And if, God forbid, something dangerous were to happen at the Center, I know that ten guys would leap to defend everyone else in the building.
So I'm not afraid when I walk out onto South Michigan St. One of the guys will always make sure I am safe. And once I am safely in my car and driving home, he'll come back into the bright, warm community of the Center, where he'll take care of others and they'll take care of him. The night is not so dark after all.
After three hours spent contracting frostbite while collecting donations in Winding Brook, eight hours scouring the aisles of Target and Meijer for wallets, razors and “underwear – you know, the kind Michael Jordan wears”, and seven hours fighting the other coaches for “the good scissors” while we wrapped hundreds of gifts, I was pretty sure that the last thing I wanted to do on Christmas Day was go to work. I even thought about calling in sick and then re
booking my plane ticket home for three days early (don’t tell my boss) so I could spend more time with my family in Maine. But as soon as I walked through the doors that morning, I remembered that spending Christmas Day at the Center for the Homeless isn’t like working at all. I immediately had a couple of three-foot tall growths attached to either leg, and two of the most gorgeous children you’ve ever seen whose welcoming words rung in my ears: “Merry Christmas Megatronic!!” Seconds after I made my way through a battery of hugs and Christmas greetings, I was accosted by a rotund, bearded man in a red suit with white fringe,
with whom I had my annual Christmas picture taken. Thus the day began…
By the end of the evening, I had eaten too many peanut butter balls, sang too many Christmas carols, and spent too many hours making sure each guest received their gifts – and there were a lot of gifts! This Christmas, we were lucky enough to be able to provide gifts for 92 single men, 26 single women, 22 mothers with 47 children, and 15 Weather Amnesty guests. Trying to organize your own family’s holiday festivities is stressful enough, but try to imagine coordinating for an extended family of over 200 people!! Christmas at CFH is an impossible task made possible by the generosity of hundreds of donors from our very own community and from around the country. The 2007 Holiday Luncheon was fortunate enough to feature Chris Gardner, who spoke about his own experience of homelessness and encouraged our guests with a message that rings true to so many people: “Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something.” Chris’s story of childhood homelessness tied in beautifully to this year’s Miracle on South Michigan Street, which featured the youngest – and best looking – guests of CFH and a barking rendition of Jingle Bells.
There were many people who worked hard to ensure that we were able to celebrate a wonderful holiday season at CFH. From donating gifts of toys and clothing, to hosting parties for our families, the outpouring of community support this year was absolutely overwhelming! We were blessed with a 6-year-old girl who saw a commercial for the Center for the Homeless and made up her mind that she wanted to donate some of her own toys to the children here. Another story is that of a young disabled woman who spent the entire year knitting beautiful scarves that she hoped would keep our guests warm during the winter months. There were families – including that of a previous employee of CFH – who took time out of their own holiday celebrations to serve Christmas dinner, and even a company that donated both time and resources to set up a coffee bar in our dining room on Christmas Day. It’s an unbelievably powerful feeling to stand witness to the generosity and selflessness of so many members of the greater community, groups and individuals alike. Equally powerful is the effect that this generosity has on our guests: the surprise in one man’s face when he unwraps the container of strawberry ice cream that he asked for but never thought he’d receive; the tears in another man’s eyes as he opens the first gift he’s received in 5 years; the gratefulness in a mother’s voice when she admits she never thought Christmas could be so good for her family this year.
These are the miracles we witness. This is what makes the three hours of frostbite, eight of hours of shopping, and seven hours of wrapping worthwhile. This is what makes me so proud to work amidst a group of people so committed to helping our guests succeed, and a community so supportive of those efforts. Christmas at the Center for the Homeless has always been – and will undoubtedly continue to be - a stressful time, but at the heart of all the chaos is the promise that there’s more to Christmas than just a rotund, bearded man in a red suit with white fringe. It’s the promise that we’re giving hope and changing lives. The promise of a new year, with new opportunities, and a new beginning for those who need it.
Last January 26, 2007, there were a total of 115 unsheltered homeless individuals in St. Joseph County, according to the results of the annual HUD Street Count. For the Center for the Homeless, that translates to an average of 25 men, women, and children who have sought shelter each night this winter.
The natural question is, with all the shelter and treatment programs available in this community, why aren’t these individuals already housed? Unfortunately, the answers are as complicated and varied as the individuals we serve. Yes, some may suffer from chronic addictions or mental illnesses that prevent them from adhering to the rules and structures enforced at CFH and other facilities. Others may be experiencing an acute crisis that requires emergency shelter. Certainly, all are proud and want nothing more than to be self-sufficient without the charity of others. However, even pride bends to winters in Michiana. With facilities like CFH already full to capacity during temperate weather, additional resources are needed for those who need to come in from the cold. Those individuals have come to rely on the Weather Amnesty Program.
The Weather Amnesty Program is a collaboration of several housing providers within the downtown South Bend area in order to ensure that all homeless individuals have access to food, clothing, and safe shelter during the harshest winter nights. When ambient or wind chill temperatures reach 32°F, the Center for the Homeless, Hope Rescue Mission, YWCA, and Life Treatment Centers all agree to provide additional sleeping areas for all the unsheltered individuals of our the community. At CFH, those individuals go through an abbreviated admission and screening, after which they can shower and eat, and may store their belongings here during the day. They are provided with blankets and linens, and any additional clothing needs are addressed as well. Although Weather Amnesty is typically observed only during evening and overnight hours, there are important exceptions. Families who are here under amnesty conditions may remain in the building all day. Weather Amnesty also remains in effect during holidays when public buildings are closed, or when temperatures drop to where even the briefest exposure becomes dangerous.
Our goal to ensure that all homeless are out of harm’s way during these severe weather conditions, while maintaining safety and security for our guests, volunteers, and staff. This requires a lot of creativity and dedication on the part of our amazing direct-care staff, who do an incredible job maintaining this balance. Because of this resourceful program, many more homeless men, women, and children can experience dignity and hope, and may be inspired to take the next step to transform their lives.
Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. ~Edith Sitwell