“It is nice to have people come in to spend time with us, help us, and do it without passing judgement”. These were the words spoken to us by a mother of 4 who is currently living in a homeless shelter. It was nice to know that she appreciated us and our willingness to give our time. However, hearing these words made me cringe inside because I am constantly disgusted by society’s stereotypes of the homeless. We, as people, need to stop passing judgement and making assumptions about people without investing time to know the story. When, and if we do, we will often learn that someone who is homeless is actually no different from ourselves. This week, we saw that firsthand again.
We volunteered to make and serve dinner for the families staying at the Vincent House, a transitional shelter for homeless families with children. It is the only shelter in our county that serves two-parent families and single-male headed families without requiring the family to split up. Vincent House is just one of the programs offered by Vincent Village. Vincent Village is a nonprofit organization that alleviates the problems of homelessness by providing shelter, advocacy, care, supportive services, and affordable housing. Since 1989, the organization has been serving and meeting the needs of the homeless in our city. Vincent Village’s belief that strong families make strong communities has allowed them to help many homeless families become independent, productive members of our community.
Upon arrival at the house, we jumped right into the kitchen and started to prepare dinner. The menu consisted of spaghetti with homemade meat sauce, salad, garlic bread, pears, and drinks. As we diced the tomatoes, cut the onions, and cooked the noodles, we enjoyed nice conversation with the residents. We heard their stories of hardship and unemployment. We also heard about program graduations, new jobs, and babies on the way. It was really nice getting to know those staying at the shelter by hearing their stories. Once dinner was done and served, we had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy it with the residents. It was a great evening of food and fellowship.
The timing of this volunteer experience could not have been better. We recently launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for our new children’s book “Linnie Mae’s New Friends”. It is story of a young girl who has society’s general stereotypes of the homeless. Through a volunteer experience with her family, she learns that ALL people are people. It doesn’t matter if one is homeless or lives in luxurious house, all people are people and everyone has a story. We believe that everyone must learn this lesson. This week’s experience confirmed the need to get our book printed and in the hands of children everywhere. We must work to eliminate the stereotypes that exist in this world today. Please support our book with a donation by clicking here.
I encourage you to challenge your perceptions, your thoughts, and your stereotypes of the homeless. Volunteer at your local shelter or help that person who is sleeping on the street. Invest some time in hearing the stories. Sit down and share a meal. When you do, you will realize that you are enjoying a meal with good people.