Gratitude Challenge, Day 1: Somerville Homeless Coalition

I’ve been called to the gratitude challenge, but rather than follow the rules I’ll be posting each day about an organization whose work I am grateful for.

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I am grateful for the work of the Somerville Homeless Coalition. If you are so moved, you can donate to their efforts. If you’re not local to Somerville, I’m sure you can find a comparable organization in your community.

Homelessness, you see, is far too prevalent.

There’s an estimated 610,042 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness‘ report of HUD statistics.

A 2005 United Nations Commission on Human Rights found that 100 million people are homeless worldwide.

The Somerville Homeless Coalition supports homeless and near homeless individuals and families in my immediate community. They operate several shelters, provide resources and support, and work to prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place.

You see, it costs the state about $36,000 a year to put a family in a family shelter, but the average cost to prevent a family from becoming homeless is $833.

People become homeless for a wide variety of reasons, but it’s often the case that an unexpected crisis – a medical bill, a car repair, a lost job – makes all the difference. Minimal support in a crisis can change people’s lives and prevent them from becoming homeless.

The health outcomes for people living in poverty are grim, and these issues are only compounded for those who experience homelessness.

I am grateful for the work of the Somerville Homeless Coalition because too many people in our communities face these challenges. Too many lose their homes, their health, their livelihoods. Too many hit rock bottom and have nowhere to turn for support.

And I am grateful for the work of the Somerville Homeless Coalition because too often these people are invisible.

Social skills are hard enough, and as members of society we are never taught how to interact with homeless people. Perhaps worse, we’re taught to be scared of them, to be disguised with them, perhaps to distrust them. To “other” them.

So when we pass our homeless neighbors, rather than a nod and a friendly hi, we’re likely to shuffle silently past. We keep our eyes down. Hold our breath. Hope they don’t ask for change. We hurry on by.

Then we forget they ever existed.

Because life is so much easier, so much less painful, so much less awkward that way.

If we pretend they don’t exist, perhaps the problem will go away.

So, the work of the Somerville Homeless Coalition is important, but perhaps what I am most grateful for is best articulated in their values statement: We treat all people with dignity and respect, always with the understanding that we are part of one community.

I am grateful for the Somerville Homeless Coalition because we are all part of one community. Because all people should be treated with dignity and respect.

Please consider supporting this work.

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