Emma Holland

I begged inclusion on the fifth Lessons of Hope project that would focus on mental health and homelessness after being impressed by the previous forum about physical health and homelessness. My own contributions were minimal, but I witnessed a phenomenal team of volunteers, led by Rachael Buck, plan, refine and execute an excellent event!

Each player took on assigned tasks and carried them out to the best of his or her ability. Every member demonstrated dedication and perseverance at such a high caliber that, if contagious, it would eventually eradicate the social ill called homelessness.

The best part: the numbers!

More than 140 caring citizens came out after a day on which, due to a forecast of snow, federal employees didn’t have to go to work. The community had an excuse not to attend, but they cared enough to come out in the cold. Despite the threat of inclement weather, there was a record turnout. This is what I thrive on: communal empathy.

The worst part: the numbers!

With an audience of 140, only one panelist–a Street Sense vendor and contributing writer–was homeless. The homeless population was inadequately represented in both panel and audience. Shelter and service providers should have brought their consumers here. How many people pigeonholed as “nutty bums” but actually bordering on the brink of mental or emotional turmoil may have found some solace or aid in this discussion? How many apathetic directors and caseworkers “file 13ed” the flyer or email invitation because they thought a consumer’s place was on a cot, not attending a forum?

The forum and its large audience stand testament to Street Sense.You can’t judge a paper by its cover. When you buy a copy, grab one for a friend. Show them you have an open mind and that they can have one too!

And if you see a Street Sense vendor and can’t afford to spend the two bucks on a newspaper, remember they are as vulnerable to life’s pitfalls as anyone. Simply spend a minute to let them know you care.