During the holiday season it is always nice to give back, and why not give back to those who need it the most - the homeless. I have done other projects to help the homeless, but I feel this was one event that really opened my eyes to the reality of the situation. When I decided to feed the homeless I didn't know what to expect, but it was something I knew was the right thing to do. Instead of just donating money, or giving canned goods to a shelter I encourage all of you to get out and help the homeless directly so that you can better understand their situation and grow from the experience.
First off, I would have never imagined how difficult it was to set up before going to give food. I thought you would just need to get food and go, but it is a much more complicated process. We needed to cook the soups and chili, ask for donations of money and of food products from our neighbors and local bakeries. Not just that, but we needed tables, pots and pans, socks, a pick up truck and much much more preparation. Besides the preparation, we needed to find a location that there are a lot of homeless grouped together so that we would be able to set up in one spot to serve people instead of searching for them. We decided to go to downtown Santa Ana, California where there were numerous groups of homeless in the surrounding parks trying to set up camps/shelter.
Once we finally got there and set everything up, people started coming in hoards. The line stretched down the street to get some chili, socks, and other holiday treats. Unfortunately for us it was one of the only days in Southern California that it rained, but it rained hard the entire time. Thus, the people that came really needed not just the food but the warmth the soup provided. One thing that shocked me was how polite people were. They were very respectful in the way we organized the booth all standing in line patiently, letting others go before them, collecting some materials for their friends, and always saying thank you to us. For someone who has been so down on their luck because of society it is amazing how high their spirits are - very polite and even joking around. This really opened my eyes to the reality of the situation.
Unfortunately the reaction of those we asked to support our cause was not as understanding. There were many people who belittled us for what we were doing and others that flat out said they didn't care. Although it is a personal choice to help others and decide who is worthy of help - wouldn't you like to be helped if you had no one to rely on and you were facing some tough times? I know I would, that is why I am hoping to go back after the holidays.
There are many people helping the homeless during the holidays which is wonderful, but they matter and struggle just as much when its not the holidays and people have stopped going to help them. I'm going to try and ensure that they are not forgotten especially during these rough weather conditions. This time I helped out by feeding them, but they need so much more - socks, clothes, suitcases and bags, tarps to keep them dry, and most of all people to understand their situation. This is why I want more people to go and help directly because your eyes will be opened to what really goes on in your community - money and donations can't solve everything.
I wish you all happy holidays, and happy helping.