Staying out for the homeless

Published 4:33 pm Monday, October 30, 2023

As the month of November ushers in a host of holidays to come, it also brings to mind thoughts of being with family, preparing for gatherings and activities that will take us into the New Year, and the wonderful times the long holiday season can bring.

But this is also the time of the year when many people who are hungry and or homeless can suffer the most.

In last Saturday’s paper, Laurie Stewart, Executive Director of the Open-Door Community Center, a shelter for single women and children experiencing homelessness, wrote an editorial about the problems of homelessness in our community.

If you have not read it, please get a copy of the Daily News and do so. Please also share it with your church or other organizations you may belong to. Stewart shares that November 13th-21st is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in this country.

I am a member of the National Coalition For The Homeless. This organization sponsors this weeklong event of educating the public and drawing attention to the devastating effects of hunger and homelessness, and preventing homelessness.

Participating groups spend the week holding a series of educational, service, fundraising, and advocacy events.

 It serves also to build up a base of volunteers and support for organizations that need your help.

When I lived in Burlington New Jersey, I organized events where church groups would stay outside the church buildings all night for National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to raised money for homeless shelters.  Participants could only bring cardboard to sit or lay on, and a blanket to keep warm. They were not permitted to bring food, hot drinks or cell phones or other electronics. For every hour they stayed at the event, others donated money in their name to go to local homeless shelters. The idea was to help people understand what it is like to literally have no place to go for shelter. These were sobering events, and ones that helped people understand the plight of the homeless. In this country, on a typical night 580,000 people are homeless, according to statistics from the National Coalition For The Homeless.

Here in Washington, I have hosted ‘Stay Out For The Homeless’ events during National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week at a local church to raise money for Zion Shelter and Soup Kitchen.

Understanding homelessness in its simplest term is having no adequate shelter and could mean no place to go. There are many reasons for people to become homeless. All it takes is a job lost, loss of finances, a fire, a flood or other natural disaster, or a medical or life threating condition that consumes your ability to pay rent or mortgage.

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is always held the week before Thanksgiving.

This November, please reach out to support the Open-Door Community Center, Ruth’s House and the Zion Shelter and Soup Kitchen. And in being a blessing, you will truly experience the joy of the holiday season.

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.