Archive for April 2009 | Monthly archive page
So, it’s official. I am now going to be blogging about GCHope projects for Take Action, part of Participant Media. They are looking for stories that show the need but lead people to DO SOMETHING and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than fight apathy and help people serve their neighbor.
In my talks with Take Action they put together a wonderful video they asked me to share about homelessness. It’s true, everyone has a story. People end up homeless for a variety of reasons. This video is the story of a little girl. It’s a very sad story, and unfortunately a true story for some people. Life gets hard and unless there’s someone reaching out you can all of a sudden find yourself alone.
So watch this video and think about Beth’s story. It’s just one story amongst a million. Think if someone had reached out to Beth how the story might have ended up different. Is there someone in your life you should be reaching out to change the story?
Today I hope you’ll be a light in someone’s story!
Giving Children Hope made a donation of water to ROCKHARBOR for their Easter services. Here is a thank you from their staff:
I wanted to thank Giving Children Hope for the water donation for our Easter services. Many people were blessed and hydrated because of the donation. Here are a few pictures for you!
When you give to Giving Children Hope, you help give back to the community!
Today I went to the theaters to watch a movie I have been looking forward to seeing, “The Soloist”:http://www.soloistmovie.com/. I’m a fan of films that portray important issues and always excited when the filmmakers encourage viewers not just to be aware, but to act. So I was honored to be a guest blogger for “Takepart.com”:http://www.takepart.com/blog/.
**The issue of homelessness is one that I have wrestled with for many years.** Like many others I have lived in urban areas and encountered what I deem to be the most visible form of homelessness and that is associated with mental illness. I was encouraged that the film shows the relationship of a regular guy who wants to make a difference and doesn’t let stigma get in the way. As is true to life, I’m not sure that there is one answer to the problem.
Today however, I wanted to highlight another side of homeless that is prevalent, but not often talked about. That is the issue of child homelessness which happens to be a big problem and on the rise in Orange County where I work at “Giving Children Hope”:http://www.gchope.org/home.html.
You’ve seen the stereotypical images of “the OC” – from Disneyland to Laguna Beach, we are portrayed as the wealthy. __But if you dig just below the surface you’ll find that child homelessness permeates the county and is only on the rise.__
The 2006 County Community Indicators Report puts homeless in Orange County behind that of only Detroit. It states:
When compared to peer regions, **Orange County has the highest estimated number of homeless, 11.7 per 1,000 residents.** This is according to a summary report by the Weingart Institute that presents findings from independent studies conducted in selected U.S. cities and counties
And according to “America’s Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness” by The National Center on Family Homelessness: One in fifty American children were homeless in 2005-2006 and 11% of American children living in poverty are homeless.
In Orange County we have a lack of affordable housing for the many low-wage earners and this has caused many families to be living in their cars, in the armories, or in month-to-month motels. No matter what the case, these families are all lacking a stable living situation and often dealing with the issue of food insecurity.
As an organization, Giving Children Hope (GCHope) is focused on supplying nonprofits, domestically and internationally, with the medicines, supplies and medical equipment they need and has a program that works directly with US free clinics. However, as an organization we felt called to do more in our own county to address the issue of homelessness. So in our assessment of the situation we started a weekly feeding program for homeless children called “We’ve Got Your Back”:http://www.wgyb.org. While low-income and homeless children are provided free meals for breakfast and lunch during the school week, __the big problem was these children were going hungry over the weekends.__
One of the important things to consider when working with children is to ensure you aren’t creating a stigma when you care for them. For this reason, all of the children in our program enroll in what they know only as Nutrition Club. GCHope works with the school nurse who identifies the children and acts as the site coordinator. Every week those children show up for Nutrition Club where they receive worksheets to learn about nutrition and leave with a back-pack filled with nutritionally balanced motel-friendly food to last them and their families over the weekend.
In talking with school nurses and principals after children have been in the program for a few weeks, the reports are stellar. Children are more attentive in the classroom and less withdrawn. Recently, a single mom in our program who was living in her car was able to move into permanent housing. **She attributes this to the fact that the provision of food for her children every week enabled her to save enough money to get into permanent housing.**
The We’ve Got Your Back program is just part of the solution to the homeless crisis in our country. It takes many hands to take part in combating hunger and homelessness. That means that it also takes YOURS. Until we all feel responsible for the issue and decide to take action, things won’t change. So I encourage you to find out the needs in your community and then get involved and do something about it.
If you’d like to get more involved with Giving Children Hope and our program to combat childhood hunger you can: “host a food drive”:http://www.gchope.org/network-for-a-cause.html to collect food that will be distributed to the children, “volunteer in our warehouse”:http://www.gchope.org/volunteer.html where we weekly pack the backpacks that go to the kids, “sponsor a child”:http://www.gchope.org/donate.html for a year, participate in our “walk-a-thon on May 16″http://www.gchope.org/walking-with-hope-festival.html to raise awareness, or come up with an idea of your own.
The Buena Park Police Association has donated 64 cases of breakfast bars and snacks to the We’ve Got Your Back program!
The program was in need of breakfast foods for the 300 children on the program, and Sergeant William Kohanek and Lori Nasman of the Buena Park Police Department brought the food at just the right time!
GCHope wants to thank the Buena Park Police Association for the donation of food! We are only able to feed Orange County’s homeless children with the help of community partners like them!
Giving Children Hope partnered with World Vision to send diapers, hygiene kits, and maternity supplies to Zambia. These supplies will the the community with some of their basic needs.
“Read information and facts on Zambia”:http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/world-vision-zambia?Open&lpos=lft_txt_Zambia
So, I’m sitting here in Lucca on Sunday afternoon. I love this little Italian trattoria in Old Towne Orange. It slightly reminds me of my life when I lived in Italy…except I can actually read the menu.
Today after church I went to the movies to see The Soloist which opened on Friday night. It’s about the relationship of a reporter and a homeless man who is schizophrenic. __I was asked by Participant Media to write a blog on homelessness.__ So I’m attempting to put thoughts onto paper that would lead to action.
But as I’m sitting here I’m wondering what I know about homelessness. The funny thing about me is that I’m not an actual expert on anything in particular and when you need to write on a particular topic it seems as if you should be. Additionally, the movie dealt with the specific kind of homelessness which I see to be rooted in the problem of mental illness. I have so many of my own questions about how to deal with mental illness that I’m not sure I could comment.
I personally have a very broad perspective on the issue of homelessness. **I’ve lived on 3 continents and seen homelessness look different in those different places.** I’ve lived in the beach community of Santa Barbara and my good friend Mason was always outside of the movie theater with his guitar singing on the streets. Late one night we went to Carrows and I learned more of Mason’s story. As I’ve visited different beach towns in my life it always feels like there is a subset of homeless that live at the beach.
I also lived in the big city of San Francisco and experienced more of the urban homelessness like the movie portrayed. The projects of San Francisco are where I got my start at the age of 20 and when I moved back at 26 I certainly encountered many years of wresting with the homeless issue. I recall my friend Charles who sat outside of the market in my neighborhood of Potrero Hill. Charles had a drug and alcohol problem as well as a mental illness. I never did come close to understanding how to help someone like Charles – I just decided that I would be his friend. And that’s what I was.
Today I live in Orange County. __And if you’ve watched the OC you think that we have no homeless here whatsoever.__ I grew up in Orange County and I think I would have agreed growing up that homelessness was not an issue here. But I would have been sorely wrong.
Since I have returned as an adult and I work for Giving Children Hope I have learned about some different facets of homelessness. As we distribute medical supplies to the US free clinics I have learned from the doctors about the healthcare issues that can’t be treated because they don’t have enough resources. I have met with our partners on Skid Row in LA, Union Rescue Mission, and learned that they turn their conference rooms into shelters at night because there aren’t enough shelter beds in LA to care for all of the homeless – women and children are especially on the rise.
More than that I have learned about what the real statistics are in Orange County for the suburban homeless. I heard for the first time in my life about this thing called “Motel Families” the month I moved to Orange County and began researching the different non-profits doing work in this area. As an adult returning to the community I was from I came to find out that not only was there in fact this problem of homelessness in this wealthy county, but it was actually a HUGE problem and somehow people didn’t know about it and didn’t really see it. The 2006 Orange County Community Indicators report (http://www.ocgov.com/pdf/2006%20Cip%20report.pdf) states:
When compared to peer regions, Orange County has the highest estimated number of homeless, 11.7 per 1,000 residents. This is according to a summary report by the Weingart Institute that presents findings from independent studies conducted in selected U.S. cities and counties. While caution is warranted in comparing these reports which may use different definitions and methodologies to count the homeless, it is interesting to note that of the cities and counties included in the regional summary, only Detroit had a higher proportion of homeless (16.5 per 1,000) than Orange County.
Wow, so second behind Detroit!
I came to find out that we have things here called armories and that people congregate in them at night so they can sleep. I learned that, at the time, there were over 11,000 elementary aged homeless children in Orange County and in the city of Orange there is even an entire school for homeless kids. Talk about the things you never knew.
As I researched further and had conversations with people in the community I learned that lack of affordable housing was one of the primary reasons causing the homelessness plight. Since Orange County lacks the necessary low-income housing and apartment complexes that exist in most major cities, those working in this large geographic area on minimum wage or in low-wage jobs often have no options. Additionally, I learned that if you managed to create bad credit for yourself and people wouldn’t rent to you, your only option was a low-rent motel. The problem with this option is two-fold. First, it’s actually more expensive to be in a low-cost motel than to rent a place for a month. Second, you could never actually re-establish your credit in these motels. You see, it’s not like paying a landlord with a lease; it’s a cash basis with utilities included. So it is entirely possible to pay your motel bill from motel to motel on time for a couple of years but still have poor credit because you have not had the opportunity to establish new credit.
**As I worked with our We’ve Got Your Back program which provides backpacks of food to homeless children in Orange County I came to learn that most of the children are going without food for the weekends.** While programs are in place to provide breakfast and lunch for them during the school week, that the weekends were really a large issue. So supplying motel-friendly food over the weekends was really one of the major needs that GCHope decided to meet.
That leads me to today. New studies emerged in recent weeks that show __over 17,000 elementary aged children in Orange County are homeless!__ So while we might think of homelessness as only people similar to Nathaniel, the character in the Soloist, the average homeless person is actually part of a homeless family. And in Orange County child homelessness is a pressing issue!
One of things that I love about our We’ve Got Your Back program is not only the fact that we are providing food for children but that while doing so we are avoiding stigma and helping families to get back on their feet.
Recently I was given a report on a young girl we’ll call Julia. Julia’s has a mom who is single and two other siblings. When Julia’s mom had her hours cut back at work they ended up living in their car as she lost their apartment. The school nurse asked the mom if Julia could join our “Nutrition Club” which would mean that in addition to learning about nutrition she would also receive a backpack filled with food every week. That was in September. Now we are in April and I’m happy to report that with the food the mom received to feed her family, she was able to focus on housing and save up enough money to get the family back into an apartment and they are no longer living in their car. What a true blessing!
**More than anything the answer to effective programs is that collaboration exists between all stakeholders because no one organization or group of people can solve the problem.** Additionally, we like to see programs that are community initiated. When a community identifies a need and wants to take responsibility for solving that need, the resources given to them are so much more likely to succeed.
In all, we have a long way to go to solve the issues of homelessness in the United States and right here in Orange County. And honestly, I won’t even pretend to have the answers to all of the contributing factors. I know that for me and GCHope, we like to focus on basic needs like food. When I hear reports that children are now able to learn and concentrate in the classroom because they are fed and that working homeless can save up enough money to get themselves into permanent housing, well, it tells me that we are at least one part of the solution.
So today is World Malaria Day. Did you know that about every 20 seconds someone dies from malaria? The majority of these deaths are children in sub-Sahara Africa.
Did you know that there is something YOU can do about it? It costs approximately **.32 to get life-saving medicines to a child in need.** You read that right – 32 CENTS. So a gift of $25 can help get life-saving medicines to approximately 78 children, many of whom are orphaned.
The other day I was with some friends and they were asking me questions about what I do. But then they stopped and stated they didn’t want to know more because ignorance is bliss and if you are aware then you have to do something.
That’s a true statement for many people but people like me don’t think that ignorance is bliss. People like me want to know more and more about the issues – and then more and more about how to help. Because the last part of the statement is true for me…once you are aware you have to do something about it. You can’t sit on the sidelines. 2 to 3 million people die every year from malaria…mostly children.
So today I promise not to feel overwhelmed because I know that I can’t do something to help 3 million children. __Instead of being paralyzed that I can’t help them all, I’ll do what I can for who I can.__ And I will walk in confidence that for those children that do receive the medicine, well, they are glad I fought apathy to become aware and they are glad I fought paralysis to help them. Because for them it literally was the difference between life and death.
Thanks for joining me in giving to Giving Children Hope in honor of World Malaria Day!
Take a tour of Union Rescue Mission, and learn about Giving Children Hope’s partner, and how they are addressing the issue of homelessness.
So networking and staying connected for me is just one of those traits that I thought everyone had but as I got older I realized that not everyone did. There are tons of things that I have absolutely no talent at but networking is maybe my greatest strength. It’s turned out to be a wonderful blessing working in this industry…because so much is about making connections and introducing cool people to one another to work together and help change the world. And when you naturally do that, people just want to help you right back – many times without even asking.
Here’s a few cool things that have taken place just this week.
• The volunteer videographer we had from Saturday’s event turns out to be an artist and is having an up-coming art exhibition at his gallery in Laguna Beach. He has generously offered that if we send people who purchase at his event that he will donate 50% of the price to GCHope…but they need to mention My Hands Have A Voice. Details are: “Tosti Studios, Saturday May 9, 2009, 6-10 PM, 210 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA”:http://www.isaacandersonart.com. Or you can find it on our events page.
• In other news, today I found out that Giants pitcher, Jeremy Affeldt, actually donated $5,000 towards the medical clinic in Thailand that GCHope is supplying. We don’t always know who our donors are since we ask recipient organizations to help raise part of the funds for their project. In this case, I found out because the story is on the front page of the “San Francisco Chronicle’s Sports page”:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/22/SPCM1777KT.DTL.
These are just some of the reasons that I love my job here at GCHope. These are examples of real people who are using their giftings to make a difference in the world.
If you have a creative idea of how you can use your talent and passion to help make a difference please contact me at “firstname.lastname@example.org”:mailto:email@example.com.
Patty Kraikittikun wanted to use her gifts as a baker to give contribute to GCHope’s “My Hands Have a Voice”:[~393~] art exhibition. She ended up making 700 cupcakes for all of our 500 guests that were in attendance on April 18!
“Read Patty’s blog”:http://pictureperfectpassionphood.blogspot.com/2009/04/700-cupcake-project.html that chronicles the love and care she put in each of those cupcakes.
Thank you Patty for using your gifts to give back and make a difference!
All of the guests loved them and the event was all the more sweet.