As many of you know, One Roof: Uniting Central Alabama to End Homelessness and homelessness are causes close to my heart. We are gearing up for National Homeless Awareness Week 2016 and are co-hosting an event this year with St. Paul and The Broken Bones. I hope some of you will join me on November 17th at Saturn Birmingham for a special screening of The Homestretch, an award-winning documentary that follows three youths growing up and navigating homelessness in Chicago. The screening will be followed by raffles, awesome prizes, and an interactive simulation of youth homelessness.
Some of you know I volunteer with One Roof: Uniting Central Alabama to End Homelessness. For this year’s National Homeless Awareness Week, One Roof is partnering with Paul Janeway of St. Paul and The Broken Bones to raise awareness of homelessness in greater Birmingham. On November 17th, they will host an intimate evening with Paul, an auction of band memorabilia donated by members of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and a gallery and auction of artwork by homeless and formerly homeless artists. Of course, there will be plenty of food, drinks, and fun, too!
Kurt Cobain’s cardigan just sold for $137,500! At the rate they’re going, St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ memorabilia could come at a hefty price soon, too. Luckily, you can get your own piece of Birmingham music history at Under One Roof With Paul. We’ve got a fabulous jacket of Paul’s, signed albums, and even Paul’s iconic white shoes. Get your tickets today before these items hit the $137k price! All proceeds will benefit homeless services in greater Birmingham.
PLEASE help us sell out this event to help end homelessness in Birmingham. You can get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/under-one-roof-with-paul-tickets-18964625706.
I’ll see you there!
Last week was National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week. I observed it by spending the night in jail.
One Roof, an organization dedicated to ending homelessness in Central Alabama, hosted a homeless simulation in Railroad Park last Thursday evening. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect and when I left, I was nearly in tears. Each participant that showed up received a number. Based on our number, we gathered into groups where we were each given an “identification card” that told us who we were and what our circumstances were (why we were homeless). On the flip side of the card were things we needed to do in order to survive the day/night. We had 35 minutes to get 3 meals, a source of income – whether it was employment or disability – , and find a safe place to sleep that evening.
As you can see from my card, I was a veteran suffering from PTSD resulting in violent outbursts. Because of my past, I was turned down for all 5 jobs I applied for that evening. I also wasn’t allowed to stay in the women’s shelter because of my criminal past (I was arrested for throwing something at a co-worker in a federal office). I saw people rob each other, yell and fight with each other, and get arrested – all while I was just standing in line to try to get SSDI.
I was stunned at how often those around me were told “no” and turned away. I was hurt after my 2nd job rejection and nearly in tears when I couldn’t find a place to sleep that evening. After getting denied at the shelter, I asked one of the social workers on-site for help. She suggested the hospital. But since I had already been to the hospital to get my medication for PTSD, I was told I couldn’t stay there, even in the waiting room. After going back to the social worker a second time, her last suggestion was the jail. It was free, it was safe, and it was a place to stay overnight indoors. I balked at her (visibly balked). She offered to escort me to the jailer if I needed help. I declined and very reluctantly (and with great humility) went to the jailer and called her a few names to get thrown in for the night.
After the simulation was over, we gathered in small groups to discuss our experiences. We were fortunate enough to have people at our table who work everyday with the homeless and affirmed some of what we went through. They educated us on those homeless people who have become their story – their stories are all they have to get just the essentials sometimes and they lose sight of themselves after telling the story so many times.
I cannot imagine what it’s truly like to be homeless, but this gave me a small taste. It made me appreciate the food, shelter, clothing, and job I have. It made my heart ache for those who don’t have those luxuries. And it made me realize most of us are just one or two bad choices away from being there ourselves.
The week before Thanksgiving is National Homeless Awareness Week. Homelessness is a subject close to my heart though I’ve not (thankfully) been affected by it personally. But I am well aware that could change in just one moment and truly feel for those who have ended up homeless due to unfortunate events. I am excited to learn more about it from One Roof, a local organization dedicated to helping to end homelessness in our area. They are hosting the NHAW events here that include a homeless simulation and a documentary screening about homelessness.
On Thursday, November 20 at 6 p.m. One Roof will facilitate a community-wide simulation open to those 18 and older at Railroad Park that teaches about the systemic barriers to housing. The simulation will be followed by a community discussion and education about how and why people become homeless. On Friday evening at 6 p.m. at the YWCA of Central Alabama they will host a screening of the documentary Storied Streets followed by an educational session on smart solutions for what the community can do to end homelessness. This will include opportunities to volunteer and a discussion about how the Alabama Housing Trust Fund can end homelessness by providing safe, supportive places for people to live.
You can RSVP for both events here.
I hope you will join me for one or both as we learn more about this issue and helping those in our city affected by it. If you would like to get involved even more, please comment below. I am creating a Junior Board for One Roof to assist them with raising awareness in our community and would love for you to be a part of it!