2011 Writing Contest: Be the Change You Want to See

Second Place Essay

Off the Streets

Lyndsay Martinelli, Saint Ursula Academy, Toledo, OH (Teacher: Ms. Hodge)

According to nationalhomeless.org, there are about 3.5 million homeless people each year. Such a large number makes trying to help seem like a wasted effort, but helping just one community, or even just one person, is an accomplishment worth trying. Many see homeless people as lazy individuals who put themselves in the situation they are in. But in fact, sometimes losing a job is inevitable, and with the recent recession, it could happen to anyone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 90.4% of the population kept a job, and sharing this fortune with others is a must. Food and water, although difficult to retrieve while homeless, are far easier to find than a warm, livable place to sleep every night. With the typical homeless person's appearance, it becomes difficult for others to lend a helping hand, but what if this could change?

Homeless shelters are an incredible thing for those who do not have a home. Unfortunately, most are overpopulated, and many homeless people still have no place to sleep. Opening just one more homeless shelter may not attend to the needs of every homeless person in the world, but it may be just enough to fit the ones of the community who either do not fit in any of the other shelters, or whose community does not offer one. Many communities have multiple vacant buildings up to own, rent, or lease. Most of these buildings just sit there collecting dust, and it's time that one collects the homeless.

This idea may seem out of reach, but if a dedicated and caring team of volunteers set to work, it would not be impossible. This project would include two parts: raising money and putting the plan into action. First, the volunteers would need to begin collecting donations for blankets and food, hold fundraisers, and/or contribute some of their own money to raise enough to rent out a building and buy cots. Because the new shelter could only help out individuals in the community, any extra money accumulated should go to donations for the poor or other organizations helping out the less fortunate.

Next, the volunteers would use the money made to put the plan into action. They would rent out a building (the size would depend on the size of the community as well as the money earned). Next, the team would buy cots, blankets, pillows, and anything to make the homeless cozy, and go on the radio or the internet so that civilians see it and mention it to the next homeless person they see. Of course they could just tell people, anything to reach out to the homeless as well as others who could make donations or volunteer.

This homeless shelter would be run like any other, with maybe a few more added perks. As I stated above, a person living on the street does not have the appearance that would make people willing to help. However, the homeless shelter could offer washing machines and showers so the homeless are not forced to sit in their own filth day after day. Opening one more homeless shelter doesn't seem like a big accomplishment, but by granting a refuge to others who do not fit in another shelter, or who do not have any to begin with, the community is giving back in an enormous way for the less fortunate. It may be just one more place, but that many more people, be it hundreds or even just a few, are able to get off the streets for the night and sleep in the warm beds that they deserve.