The weather has turned colder and the holidays are in full swing, which means it’s the time of year when people ask “what can we do for the homeless now that it’s so cold?” Or “how can we help the homeless have a good Christmas?” For those of us working with men, women, and children who are experiencing homelessness, the great community interest in December in those we serve can be heartwarming — and overwhelming. Overwhelming because we are inundated by your extraordinary generosity during this time. But heartwarming, because you are thinking about the persons in our program as individuals; as people with their own holiday dreams.
In my 30-plus years in homeless services, one of my pet peeves is the phrase “the homeless.” When we use that phrase we unknowingly dehumanize the people we describe. We are also inaccurately lumping together a diverse group of people under one label as though they are all the same with the same needs. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are individuals, each with a unique story. They are children. They are mothers and fathers. They are veterans. They are people from all walks of life. The one thing they have in common is not having a permanent address.
At New Hope Housing, we don’t help the Homeless, we don’t house the Homeless, we don’t serve the Homeless, we don’t work for the Homeless, because here, we don’t believe the Homeless exist. We serve people. And sometimes people experience homelessness. We believe homelessness is something that happens to you. Our job at New Hope Housing — and the job of our nonprofit partners — is to prevent that experience from happening, or if it does happen, making it as short as possible by helping get people back into appropriate permanent housing.
We at New Hope Housing, and our partners, as well as the families and single adults in our programs, are truly grateful for your support in filling a holiday wish list, providing a meal, volunteering at one of the many hypothermia sites, or donating money to help our agencies end the homelessness of each person who walks through our doors. We will still need you on Dec. 26 and Feb. 5 and during the summer. Until each person is home, we’ve all got work to do.
Thank you for making this person-to-person connection this holiday season. Thank you for seeing that those who seek our assistance are not “the homeless,” but men, women, and children with hopes and dreams, just like each of us who are blessed with a place to call home. Because there is no place like home — anytime of the year.