"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Helping the Homeless!

If you are reading this blog, chances are pretty good that you are not homeless. Homelessness takes away so many things that most of us take for granted (really basic things) like a shower and a place to wash your clothes; and that's just a start. What about an address, a phone, access to health care? In King County, Washington, the 2008 One Night Count of people who are homeless showed at least 8349 people sleeping in shelters and on the streets.

Just imagine - You are homeless, you have a family to care for, and you need to find work! What do you do? Some cities have resources where people can get a meal or even a place to sleep, but what about other essential needs? Well, if you are in Seattle, Washington, you would be fortunate to have a unique resource not found in most other (if any) cities in the United States - The Urban Rest Stop. The Urban Rest Stop - operated by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) - is a hygiene center that provides restrooms, showers and laundry facilities (along with toiletries) to homeless people seven days a week (at no cost to patrons).

In 2007 the LIHI built a health exam room at the Rest Stop, and has been working with Harborview Medical Center to staff it with a public health nurse to provide basic medical care to patrons. In addition to all this, the Rest Stop provides information and referral information on a wide variety of issues. Is this a tremendous (and essential) service or what?

Urban Rest Stop - On an Average Day:
Serves 500 people (800 during summer)
150 loads of laundry
200 showers

At the LIHI Auction on November 14th, Congressman Jim McDermott reminded us that one of every four homeless people (and these are, indeed, PEOPLE) are veterans (something you probably didn't hear about on Veteran's Day). With the economy in a shambles, and endless U.S. military actions continuing overseas, we will be seeing an increase in homelessness, both from the civilian side and the military. If we can't stop all these people from becoming homeless, we will absolutely need to help them (do more than just) survive on the streets so that they can rebuild their lives.

And that is just what organizations like the Urban Rest Stop and LIHI are all about. At the LIHI Auction, Ronnie Gilboa, Urban Rest Stop Manager, spoke of the need to export the Urban Rest Stop model to every city in the nation; that everyone deserves access to take care of their basic needs, as well as basic health care, and that these are public health issues.

Do you have anything resembling the Urban Rest Stop in your city? If not, take a look at their Website and learn more about it. Contact LIHI for more information. Discuss the idea with others in your community. Generate interest among groups that might provide support. Maybe your city can have the next "Urban Rest Stop". If you live in the Seattle area, consider supporting LIHI's work

While at LIHI's Website, you can also learn about the affordable housing they provide to struggling families as well as supportive services needed to build stability and rebuild their lives. Until we make fundamental changes to the fundamental societal structures that create homelessness, we will need to support organizations like LIHI that not only advocate for an end to homelessness, but do something REAL about it right here and now. And speaking of "REAL", stay tuned for my next posting where I'll introduce you to REAL CHANGE, another organization that advocates for low income people while working to end homelessness and poverty (in some pretty original ways).



P.S. - Click here to read some Urban Rest Stop success stories (in patrons' own words).

1 comment:

Tom said...

The Urban Rest Stop can serve as a critical arm to assist homeless people to get jobs and other helps by providing a temporary phone and address for mail
and emplyer calls back. In the Traverse City, MI, a small town that serves a large rural area, Grace church uses some space to do everying that Seattle's Urban Rest Stoop does, except health exams. This could be a ministry for regional churches outside Seattle.