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Archive for the ‘Community Resource Exchange’ Category

This Friday, United Way of King County will hold its annual Day of Caring.

To be honest, I’ve never been fond of that name. I know I’m over-simplifying, but to set aside one day to “care” makes about as much sense to me as offering up a box of chocolate on February 14th to make up for all the other times we’ve messed up in our relationships throughout the year. This will be my 12th DoC since coming to United Way, and to me, over the years this day has become a Celebration of Caring, a chance to recognize that ‘caring’ is something that we do, generally, all the time…whether it’s for ourselves, our families and friends, or complete strangers.

This year, it will also be a chance for me to reflect, because our Day also happens to fall on the 8th anniversary of September 11th. [For those of you not aware, it has been named a National Day of Service and Remembrance.]

Since 9/11, the proximity of these two dates (Day of Caring always happens on a Friday in September) has always created mixed emotions on my part. Back in 2001, Day of Caring occurred on September 14th. My work assignment for that morning was to stand in the parking lot at Seattle Center and guide volunteers to where they could park. As I stood there by myself, I watched the sky get brighter over the Cascades, and noticed a dot come out of the mountain shadows. It was the first morning that air flights were allowed to continue after the attack. And I remember tears. I didn’t want to be there, volunteering or otherwise.

I still get knots in my stomach thinking about that day. I still get moody and a little sad when I think about finding out later that I knew 2 people in the World Trade Center.

But this year, on this day, I get to assist homeless individuals and families at our Community Resource Exchange. I get to celebrate caring, celebrate service, and remember how lucky and grateful I am for the opportunity to do so.

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videographyAt our Community Resource Exchanges (CRE), we really encourage our volunteers to engage with our guests and spend time talking with them. We have a big communal dining area and seating throughout the venue so that folks could just relax and talk. Our volunteers get to hear some amazing stories and it really changes their perceptions about homelessness.

As we’ve seen with sites like InvisiblePeople.tv, the internet really allows everyone to have a voice and share their stories to a broad audience. Homelessness is moving away from being marginalized and is spreading online.

We want to do our part in this movement, too. So for our upcoming CRE we want to set up a camera so that our guests, our volunteers, and our service providers can come and share their stories and experiences.

We have the space, the people, and the drive. Now, we need a volunteer videographer! Here’s our volunteer description:

Wanted: Volunteer Videographer to Record Stories of People Experiencing Homelessness

United Way of King County will soon be hosting its Community Resource Exchange – a large event to benefit people experiencing homelessness in our community. We expect to welcome 900+ homeless families and individuals to receive housing/employment support, medical care, haircuts, and more.

One other service we want to offer is allowing our guests, volunteers, and service providers to tell their stories and share their experiences. We will have a separate room for people to capture their moments on video.

We need a volunteer videographer with the time, equipment, and know-how to make this all happen.

Help us share these stories and raise awareness around homelessness!

When: Friday, September 11th, 2009. 7am – 3pm
Where: Qwest Field Plaza (800 Occidental Ave South)

If you’re interested or if you have questions, shoot me an email at ykim[at]uwkc[dot]org or an @reply/DM to @HomelessKC.

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My co-worker Yuri wrote a great post yesterday about the Community Resource Exchange. I liked it so much, I want to refer to it again. Not only does this event offer people currently dealing with homelessness an opportunity to connect with a variety of different resources in one place on a single day, but it also offers something unique to those of us lucky enough to volunteer.

We get to talk with people attending the event. We get to walk with them, side-by-side, from service provider to service provider. We get to sit down and eat with them. We share stories about our lives (‘How’d you end up in Seattle?’, ‘Where’d you go to college?’, ‘I dated a guy named Patrick back in high school’, etc). We have a chance to remind ourselves just how alike we really are; how simple acts like listening to someone or sharing a meal really can have a significant impact on someone’s life.

And I’m not actually talking about the homeless person here. Although I like to think I’ve affected them positively, as well.

So what can you do? Well, we have the volunteers, and just about all of the logistics are set.

But, here’s something: you know that backpack or duffel bag sitting in the garage, attic, or trunk of your car? The one that is in fairly decent shape (not ripped apart at the seams), but you never use it anymore? Or maybe you just bought a new one for your kid as he or she gets ready to head back to school, and you figured you would just toss the old one?

Don’t. Instead, drop it off at United Way of King County, 720 2nd Avenue in downtown Seattle (corner of 2nd & Columbia). Or you can email me at pkelley@uwkc.org, and we can figure something out.

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I’ve been ranting and raving about our  upcoming Community Resource Exchange, which is a big one day event to help people experiencing homelessness (I must’ve said/written that sentences a million times now).  I mean, I’ve written really detailed posts about it and I’ve been tweeting about it on our new HomelessKC Twitter account (follow please!) for the last month.

So continuing on this trend, let me share with you some of the amazing results that have come out of past CREs.  Remember, all of these things happened all in one place and in one day.   And also, we’re going to have another one of these great events on 9/11/09!

CRE 2009 April178

At any given CRE, we have…

…Over 800 homeless families and individuals come through our doors and receive care and services.
…Over 250 volunteers come together from the community to serve the homeless.
…Over 80 nonprofit organizations, schools, and community groups provide services for those in need.

Notable Achievements

  • Each guest and volunteer received a warm meal catered by FareStart.
  • $14,085’s worth of dental care which included 20 x-rays, 31 examinations, and 18 extractions. All done through Medical Team International’s mobile dental clinic
  • DSHS provided 40+ EBT cards (food stamps) in one day. Normally, this takes weeks to process.
  • 300 Haircuts provided by students from Northwest Hair Academy.
  • 200 Participants had their feet washed by members of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer
  • 250 Long distance calls made
  • 75 Voicemail accounts set up through Community Voicemail via Solid Ground
  • All guests left with care packages filled with travel-sized toiletries and other goodies

Really, that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of services that we have.  I could go on and on about the free legal service, health services, youth support, veterans support…. I’ll stop.

Suffice to say, I think the CRE is a really awesome event that makes a big difference on the lives of people experiencing homelessness in our community.   I’m really excited about our upcoming CRE on 9/11!

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If you can spare that much time right now, give this a listen. It includes the story of a woman currently staying at the Jubilee Women’s Center in Seattle. The familiarity of these stories gives me pause. Not to mention a 40% increase in the homeless population would be catastrophic.

How can you help?

  • Volunteer to lead a supply drive for the Community Resource Exchange on September 11th. You can help make sure a family currently experiencing homelessness gets the assistance they need to make it through the winter.
  • Want to volunteer? We do need 25 people or so to help us assemble about 1,500 hygiene care packages on September 10th. You can sign up right here.
  • “The future is not shaped by people who don’t believe in the future. It will be built by people who see the complexities that lie ahead but are not deterred; people who are conscious of the flaws of humankind but not overwhelmed by the doubts and anxieties of life; people with the vitality to gamble on their future, whatever the odds…”–John W. Gardner

    Patrick Kelley

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    On Wednesday, April 8th, dozens of service providers and hundreds of volunteers assembled at Qwest Field to offer assistance to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in our community. We received a lot of media coverage for the event (probably in light of the current recession), and I also wrote a little about some of the people I met that day in a previous post. We hope to do this type of activity twice a year, so keep an eye out for it in the future!

    We had 863 people access different services throughout the day. While that was lower than we expected, we did see a 60% increase in the number of people who reported being chronically homeless throughout the past year. 85 agencies and other service providers offered everything from employment support to housing services, free haircuts to foot washing. Over 400 volunteers spent their day guiding, helping, eating with, listening, laughing, and sometimes crying with another human being…someone who they otherwise would never have come into contact with. Here a few of their stories:

  • Today I learned that there are many more homeless in the area than I thought. I’ve also never thought about someone being homeless but having a job. I met someone who had been working a steady job for 2 years but remains homeless to this day.
  • My favorite part of the day was running into a formerly homeless man we had served at the first CRE, who now has a job and place to live.
  • My favorite interaction of the day was with a young mother of five. I walked over to her as she approached with her stroller and 5 kids in tow. She was incredibly polite and grateful, and her kids were darling. After further conversation, I found out that she was living in a motel with her children because she had come out of a domestic violence situation. She was so happy, though, because she was able to find help and had a prospect for housing by the end of the day. It broke my heart to hear her story, but I felt so happy that she was able to find help.
  • I heard one gentleman tell a co-worker of mine that he felt like a million bucks. Feet washed, new clothes, manicure and haircut and a great meal! He was so appreciative of these things it really made you stop and think what is important. It was a very eye-opening, sad and happy day!
  • Indeed.

    Patrick Kelley

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    I just found a great site containing stories of homeless people through Change.org. It’s called invisiblepeople.tv. I couldn’t get through more than 3 of the stories at a time. And as I sit here, I start to think about other stories I know, others that I’ve heard.

  • There’s the married couple I met at the Community Resource Exchange last Wednesday. As I checked their bags outside so they didn’t have to carry them around at the event, they told me a little bit of their story. Been married less than a year, and both lost their jobs before Christmas. You could see they were in love, in that newlywed kind of way. But they were also scared. They were a few weeks away from losing their apartment, so I directed them to the housing services area inside. Then they disappeared into the crowd…
  • There’s Rick, another individual who came by the event. Rick’s story was featured on several local stations (TV and radio). It’s a story that was mirrored by dozens of others on Wednesday, yet genuinely unique if only because it was HIS.
  • Stories. Of course, we all have one. But along with that fact of life, don’t we also need someone to tell it to? Ask any volunteer from Wednesday, and they’ll probably tell you the best part about the event was the opportunity to listen to another human being tell their story, someone who they would have never (not in a million lifetimes) otherwise taken the time to listen to.

    Go to invisiblepeople.tv. Read their stories. Buy a copy of Real Change, and chat with the vendor. Listen to their stories. Better yet, offer to buy them a cup of coffee and get inside somewhere, because this weather blows.

    You will be surprised.

    Patrick Kelley

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