Helping the Homeless

Courtney Brooks

As a communication major, I was surprised to find that multiple classes of mine this year have been focusing on the issue of homelessness both locally, nationwide, and worldwide.
Although this isn’t what you typically expect a communications class to hone in on, within just the first two weeks I have felt a roller coaster of emotions, from shocked to sadness to a desire to help.

Since we are all students at the University of New Haven, I think it is a safe assumption to make that none of us are strangers to the issue of homelessness.

We see it everyday, whether it is someone sleeping on a park bench on the green downtown or someone begging for money on the street corner as we walk to class; it is everywhere.

But, if you’re anything like me, when you see a homeless person you are probably used to avoiding eye contact, keeping a safe distance, ignoring them, and moving on with your day.

Sure, there are those awesome good Samaritans who will stop and hand over a few bucks, but the majority of us probably aren’t too affected by it, too busy with our own lives to care.  I can relate, I was the same way.

However, within the first two weeks of classes, a few of my professors have exposed me to a new way of thinking.

At first, they shocked me with statistics. Globally, approximately half of the world populations, 3 billion people, are living in poverty.  Nationally, about 3.5 million people are experiencing homelessness in the United States alone. Locally, over four thousand people are experiencing homelessness in our small state of Connecticut.

Next, my professors got to me on an emotional level when one of them went out of their way and brought our class to visit a homeless shelter right down the street from UNH, The Columbus House.

During our visit we were able to take a tour of the facility and see the rooms where people sleep day in and day out. We met with a staff member who was more than helpful in answering all of our questions about the issue of homelessness in general and his experiences working at the shelter.

What really stood out to me about this visit was how often he kept reminding us that at the end of the day, people who are experiencing homelessness are really just people, and this is when my mindset changed.

I began to think of that person I saw lying on the bench downtown and see them for what they really were.  They aren’t just a number added to the statistics, or a bum in an unfortunate circumstance.  That person was at one point just like you and me; they were a friend to someone, a daughter or a son, a mother or a father, they were a person.

They didn’t choose to be homeless and they aren’t to blame for it, they just happened to be unlucky enough to be dealt a bad hand of cards and are in need of some help and it could happen to any one of us, at any time.

Thankfully, there are amazing nonprofit organizations like The Columbus House who are doing everything they can to help those who are experiencing homelessness, but they always need more help.

The Columbus House is not even a mile off campus and they would be more than appreciative of an extra pair of hands to help serve food every now and then.

I know we are all extremely busy with school, work, sports, and social activities, but take a second and think about everything you have.  You are one of the lucky ones who have been given the opportunity of a great education and a place to call home every night, but maybe it is time to start giving back.

Put yourself in the shoes of the 4,000 people who experience homelessness every day and every night and think about how you would want people to treat you.

I can guarantee that you would want nothing more than to have someone reach out to you and treat you like a person, like a human being, so next time you encounter a homeless person have a little compassion and be kind.

And if you do have any free time, make your way down to The Columbus House, a few hours spent volunteering could make all the difference in the world to someone in need.