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A Walk By Any Other Name Still Helps

Many of the demographic details of the 2000 census have just been released. They contain a wealth of information pertaining to the social complexion of the area.

What most people do not realize is that even the homeless were counted, when they could be located. What was not counted or analyzed or crunched into the numbers was the hopelessness of the homeless.

According to United Community Ministries (UCM), "There are more than 25,000 people who experience homelessness each year in the Washington area ... and most of the homeless in our area are families."

Families mean children and, at a minimum, there are 830 homeless children in the immediate area alone. "We don't see them because they stay in emergency shelters, hide in abandoned buildings, or live in their cars," Deborah Halla, UCM development officer, explained.

UCM, the Fannie Mae Foundation, and area schools, churches and other organizations have formed an alliance to help end homelessness, according to Halla. Part of that effort is the sponsorship of Help the Homeless mini-walks.

ONE SUCH WALK was scheduled by UCM last Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, due to security precautions still being observed in light of the sniper attacks, it was canceled.

In place of the walk, volunteers gathered at UCM headquarters on Fordson Road in the Mount Vernon District to participate in various activities that educated them about homeless issues and ways they could help. One such activity was a game that tested their individual knowledge about what items could be included in a homeless food bag.

"Participants learned that any such item such as pasta or soup could not be included because the homeless usually have no refrigeration or cooking capabilities," Halla explained. "In addition, many do not have can openers, and many suffer from dental issues that make biting into hard fruits such as apples impossible."

Coupled with the learning experience, those in attendance helped unload food trucks and bag items for distribution. Food is regularly distributed at UCM to homeless individuals and families.

Local schools and churches that had planned to sponsor mini-walks undertook other indoor activities to stimulate aid for the homeless. Some plan to reschedule their walks, according to Halla.