DC Central Kitchen: Day 4

by Gillian Minnerly

This was a really sad day for me! It was my last day volunteering at DCCK and I didn’t want to leave. We walked in and Chef Will called out for Courtney and I to go help him bake today. We made a ton of batter for cookies and then I started to make a ginger cake for Professor Fee’s birthday. This was such a great experience for me because I never used to like baking. Since I’ve been to DCCK, I don’t want to stop. Chef Will created a bond with Courtney and I that we hope to continue. When we said goodbye we almost started to tear up.

After presenting the cake to Professor Fee, the CEO of DCCK came to talk to us. He spoke about a program that they started in order to provide healthy alternatives for the people that don’t have the opportunity to shop at high-end grocery stores. DCCK gave corner stores a refrigerator and healthy foods to put in it to sell. They let the stores try the program and keep the money for whatever was sold for the first two months, and then if they liked the idea, DCCK would start to profit from it by taking a part of the cost. This has generated enough revenue to keep DCCK going. It was great to speak to Mike (the CEO), and I hope to see everyone that I have met again next year!

Night Duty at the Luther Place Night Shelter: Monday

by Sarah Dumont

On our last night in DC, Gillian and I spend the night on the fourth floor of the hostel with the women staying in the shelter. We were the volunteers in charge of turning lights out, locking doors, giving out medications, and helping all the women feel safe in the shelter if anything was to go wrong.

In class we have talked about how the stereotypes of people dealing with homelessness are untrue. My entire experience in DC has solidified that thought for me, but staying in the shelter overnight allowed me to see firsthand that the women were just like everyone else. They lived ‘normal’ lives but just were not in the right circumstances to be able to afford a home. The shelter puts them on a strict schedule with curfews and lights-out, but the structure has prepared them to succeed. With the stability and sense of home the shelter gives them, they are all able to work hard and get ahead in their lives. It humbles me to think that I was part of this experience for these women. It is amazing to think that by treating them simply as human beings I am making a positive impact on their lives.

Staying in the shelter showed me how strong the women were. They were able to smile and enjoy the same things as I do, but the misfortune they have experienced is much more than I have. I am grateful for the way I was brought up and I admire the women in the shelter for continuing to have a positive outlook on life.

The thought of staying overnight in a shelter seemed intimidating at first but now that I have done it once, I hope that I have to opportunity to do it again.  I also hope that my next time volunteering in a shelter will be an experience that I can grow as much from as the first time I volunteered overnight.

Spending Time with the Women of the Luther Place Night Shelter

by Cheery Huang

It was a Sunday night! Everyone knows what is on TV on a Sunday night: FOOTBALL!

Watching football with the women of N Street was great! It reminded me of home because I always watched the San Francisco 49ers play back home. Last night we watched the game on NBC; the Washington Redskins played the Dallas Cowboys. The women upstairs were routing for the Washington Redskins even though the team was not doing well.

When I went upstairs, the score of the game was 6-14 and quickly went to 9-21 with Dallas Cowboys in the lead. Every time the Washington Redskins got the ball, the women and I were cheering and clapping very loudly, hoping for a touchdown.  When the Dallas Cowboys got the ball, we still cheered and clapped for the Washington Redskins and yelled, “STOP THEM!” or “GO GET THEM!” During the commercials, the women complained or celebrated depending on what the Washington Redskins did right before the commercial. Finally, the Washington Redskins made a touchdown and the score was 16-21. The women were so happy that they jumped up from their chairs, clapping and cheering for the team.

Soon it was 11 o’clock and it was time to go to sleep. I was very sad that it was time to go back downstairs because I wanted to finish watching the game with the women to see who won. While I was upstairs, I noticed not all the women were interested watching football with the rest of the other women. A few women were doing their own things.  A woman was at one corner eating while another woman was at another corner taking out a needle and thread, sewing her clothes. I wish I interacted with them, but I felt they wanted to be alone so I didn’t bother to go up and talk to them.

Meeting with David Hilfiker

by Liz Broske

Today David Hilfiker, the author of Not All of Us Are Saints, came to speak to our class. We spoke for almost an hour and a half not only about the book but about other major things. He started by speaking to us about poverty. He opened my eyes to many things I was not aware of. For instance, he mentioned how many people make use of poverty benefits. He said that 67% of people use these benefits at some point in their life. More than half of our entire United States population is in need. This is so surprising to me. Although I have witnessed some forms of poverty, I didn’t realize so many people experienced it this much.

On another note, it is amazing how Dr. Hilfiker devoted his life to helping people experiencing homelessness in need of healthcare. He calls what he does “poverty medicine” and uses his medical knowledge to help people. In reading this book, he seems to have met and helped many people that would have been in terrible condition without him. David Hilfiker said that he continues to see one character, John. It pulled on my heart strings to hear that John was clean and doing well. Overall, this experience makes me see how many people do so many great things to help others. Along with Judge Rupp, whom we spoke with yesterday, people do these things out of the goodness of their hearts. This gives me hope for making homelessness have an end.

DC Central Kitchen: Day 3

by Kelly Ashnault

Today we experienced our third day at DC Central Kitchen.  The atmosphere in the kitchen today was a little more formal due to the trainees’ training.  Although the kitchen was very hectic, one of the head chefs, William, still made a point to visit the station I was helping out at several times to see how we were doing.  Simply being around William raised the monotonous job of grating cheese to a fulfilling task.  William’s attitude inspires me because he comes into work every day with such an upbeat, friendly attitude and goes out of his way to make every volunteer feel like they are making a difference.  Not only did William talk to us to try to raise productivity, but he also went out of his way to have a conversation with me about my life.  This was something that I was very surprised by because although I know William appreciated our help I didn’t know he cared enough to go out of his way to personally get to know each one of us.

Aside from grating cheese, I also had the opportunity to cut the quesadillas.  It was a great feeling to know I was making a difference and the food I was helping make would help another person out.  We also had the opportunity to sign the board at DCCK, which I feel brought us all together.  In doing this, it helped us reflect on our experience, the people we’ve met, and the stereotypes we broke down.  All in all, I’m sad to leave DCCK tomorrow, and I know my experiences with this organization will influence the way I act towards people experiencing homelessness for the remainder of my life.

Bingo Night with the Women of the Luther Place Night Shelter

by Rishi Muchhala

Throughout my experience during Bingo Night, I was thinking about what my colleagues had told me about some of the ladies upstairs. I was trying to put my preconceived notions into my experience during bingo. My peers had told me that most of the ladies that they talked to were great and outgoing people. I went into bingo with the mindset that these women would be very friendly and nice throughout everything that I was going to experience; this is exactly what I perceived and felt throughout my time upstairs.

This hour was one of the most memorable hours of my life. It not only gave me a first-hand experience with people experiencing homelessness, but it was undoubtedly an eye-opener for me as well. I talked to them about their experiences throughout their lives and learned several lessons from what they had to say. Only two women were open to talk with me about their experiences, and they both had similar stories of how they ended up experiencing homelessness.

Overall it was an incredible experience, and everybody, including all of the participants, enjoyed themselves and said that this was one of their favorite nights they’d spent here so far. This comment really made a difference in my life because it just showed how appreciative they were for a friendly night of bingo. The fact that I was part of their favorite nights at the shelter really makes me feel like I had a great bond with them and that they will cherish this memory for the rest of their lives; at least I will. All in all, I am really glad that I picked Bingo Night because I enjoyed every single minute of it.

National Coalition for the Homeless: Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Panel

by Caroline Campbell

Today we went to the National Coalition for the Homeless, which was an extremely moving experience which connected the whole trip together. Before we arrived, I was expecting to meet in an auditorium-type room where we would be talked at. Instead, the place felt more like a house, and the room was much more intimate. First, an administrator talked to us about the National Coalition for the Homeless briefly and told us that three people who experienced homelessness would be speaking to us.

The first person who spoke to us was a woman named Zara. She told us the story of how she had a steady job and made a life for herself and her family, until she lost many loved ones in her life and ended up losing her money. She stressed the importance of having a support system in life, as these people are the ones who will help you when you need it. Unfortunately, she lost many loved ones either through death or because they did not want to help her in her time of need.

The next two speakers, Jeffery and Steve, also stressed the importance of having a support system. Jeffery told us about his experience sleeping on others’ couches, or “couch hopping.” Even through his journey experiencing homelessness, he managed to keep a positive attitude. He never lost hope, and now he has a home and is working to become a deacon. Steve’s story was especially moving, and left many of us in tears. His story helped us all to appreciate our parents and families more, as he grew up without a loving and supportive family, stressing again the importance of a support group. Without a support group, he ended up doing drugs and had no one to help him out of his situation.

Each of the speakers had an extremely moving story to share, and an extremely important message: not only should we take something out of their stories, but we should also share the message we learned from them. We need to advocate for them, as it is our generation that can change the homeless situation in America.  Even though these people are either still experiencing homelessness or did at some point, they were all so happy and positive, leaving a huge impact on us.