Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week lasts from November 15-22. This national program draws attention to the problems of hunger and homelessness. Homelessness and hunger are ongoing issues that affect us right in our own backyard but you and others can help!
What is Homelessness?
To start, the term “homeless” can bring different images to your mind but it is important to note that there isn’t one defining characteristic other than lacking a stable place to live. The unsheltered are only the beginning of homelessness. Homelessness also includes those living in places not meant for human habitation, those fleeing domestic violence, aging out of foster care, and experiencing a behavioral health crisis. This list is not exhaustive. These people are someone’s daughter or son, they are families, they are people that have not planned or chosen to be homeless.
What are the numbers?
Approximately 549,000 Americans are homeless on a typical night. In Florida, that number is approximately 28,000, where nearly 1,500 of those are young adults.
Unfortunately, there has been a rise of new households that are experiencing first-time homelessness and/or housing insecurity due to the economic impact of COVID-19.
There is a plus side. The number of people experiencing homelessness over the last 10 years in the state of Florida has decreased by 50.8%. This reduction is because of a few things. This includes an increase in permanent housing solutions and using the Housing First approach to focus on providing permanent housing. The work is not done.
Spotlight: Remy Gordon
As part of an effort to bring a local spotlight to the effects of homelessness, I reached out to Remy Gordon, a high school friend and Miami native who started her own organization, charity, and phone app to help the homeless. Remy broke from the world of teaching after realizing that one of her second-grade students wasn’t able to complete his homework because he was sleeping in a park when shelters were full. She made a life change and entered graduate school. Remy attended graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis and focused on “At-Risk Youth.” During her time there, she met a woman and her one-year-old son experiencing homelessness. They could not find a shelter to stay in. After sitting and speaking to her, Remy learned that Googling shelters led to results like the Humane Society. “This was not okay.”
How Seeking Shelter Was Born
After that night, she realized a need for a “simple and confined list for people in crisis.” She created an app called Seeking Shelter. Now, the app is nationwide and provides resources to people all over the country.
As Remy explained, most of the homeless community have cell phones and use free WiFi. Seeking Shelter provides them with resources ranging from emergency shelter, food banks, free laundry, free medical sites, and more. Therefore, this makes the app useful not only to the homeless community but those suffering from the hunger crisis.
Seeking Shelter in Miami
Locally, Remy personally goes into Miami communities and learns about the people experiencing homelessness. So, she not only takes them necessities but shows them kindness, love, and respect. She learns all their stories. Remy says, “I treat them just as I treat everyone else in my life. I hear their struggles and validate them while offering them a nonjudgmental ear and guidance. I become someone that they can trust, someone they can come to when they need something.” She learns their names, their personalities. She knows who shares supplies with those that are uncomfortable showing their face around others and each of their personal struggles.
How you can help!
If you are interested in donating supplies, clothing, or any other resources please contact Remy Gordon or visit the Seeking Shelter website. Nonperishable foods, snacks, tents, yoga mats, sleeping pads, blankets, pillows, sheets, comforters, and gently used clothing in all sizes infant to adult are accepted. The homeless deserve our respect so items with stains or holes are not accepted. Donations can also include shoes, handbags and tote bags, suitcases, and all personal hygiene products.
Helping as a family.
A great suggestion provided by Remy is to create “goodie bags.” Parents and children can help put them together. A quick goodie bag can include granola bars, fruit snacks, a bottle of water, or other small items. Remy notes that having kids decorate a picture or encouraging words in it is also welcome! This is a great way to help children learn about the homeless community and to respect them. Similarly, another great tip is to carry an extra granola bar, water bottle, or snack item in your car with you. This way, you may be able to provide someone suffering from hunger and homelessness with a useful item.
We need you.
Remember, this need is ongoing, not just during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and not just during the holidays. In speaking to Remy, she mentioned that recently, the tents and belongings of a community she helps were all thrown out due to “street cleaning.” These people are suffering and need tents, yoga mats, and other sleeping supplies more than ever.
Homelessness is not a destination, rather it is a detour in life. -Remy Gordon
Do you know someone that is in need of emergency shelter? Seeking Shelter is an incredible resource. Together, let us help those suffering from homelessness and be the change, a smiling face, and a helping hand.