Editors note: This report was written by Solid Ground Tenant Counselor, Jeanne Winner
On September 17th, I had the honor of participating as a service provider in the United Way’s Day of Caring Resource Exchange along with a few of my coworkers. There were over 1,400 homeless adults who attended in order to receive information, products and services for themselves. This was an impactful and deeply meaningful event for those who were there.
The 600 service providers and volunteers were encouraged by United Way staff “to treat people as ‘honored guests.’ Most of these folks walk the streets and people look away from them. By giving them your full presence and assistance, you are giving a great gift to them, and to yourselves.”
My colleague, Judy Poston, and I shared a table where we did outreach about Solid Ground’s Tenant Services and Financial Fitness Boot Camp programs. We passed out printed materials and talked to 100 people about the challenges they face while trying to find affordable housing.
Judy spoke with people about ways they could work towards repairing their credit, and I talked with people about housing search and tenant rights.
It was apparent that the tables which provided information and products were important to the attendees; yet, it seemed that the booths which offered services right there touched the individuals at a much deeper level. Vince Matulionis, Director of Ending Homelessness for the United Way, told KUOW reporter, Deborah Wang, “The importance of getting a haircut, getting your picture taken, making a phone call, getting your feet washed – most of us in our daily lives tend to take for granted. But when you are homeless, rarely do those types of things come easily and quickly to you.”
The day’s results were amazing. Not only were the participants appreciative and grateful, but for many of the providers and volunteers, it was a deeply-felt experience.
The United Way has organized this event for the past nine years, providing one day a year for people experiencing homelessness in Seattle to get their basic needs met all in one place. The next one is in April. To me, one day a year isn’t enough. I am hopeful that people in our community will come together collaboratively to hold events like these on a more regular basis. It would make a world of difference for so many people.