As a part of one of my courses, Community Development in Context (I described what that course is about in my last blog), we have to complete 40 hours of community service. As someone who has survived it, I wanted to volunteer at an organization that aimed at alleviating poverty in some way. After doing some research, I found an organization that seemed perfect for me: the Haven Night Shelter (also known as the Haven).
The Haven is a nonprofit that has a goal of providing the homeless with a home. Not only that, but they want provide the homeless with resources that can help them re-integrate into society, such as “temporary shelter rehabilitation opportunities, social welfare services, family re-unification services, physical care and support to adult persons living on the streets who are committed to getting back home” (the Haven’s website). One of my favorite parts of this organization is that they refer to those whom they have welcomed in as their clients – they believe since they are providing a service, they rather refer to them as clients versus guests.
My first day at the Haven was last week Monday, and it was an interesting experience. I arrived at 10am, and it was already very busy. Our clients were preparing lunch for the day (it was a group of them cooking lunch, which smelled great by the way), my supervisor was in and out of meetings, and there were many people who came in looking for information on how to receive services from the Haven. I mainly helped those who were not a part of the Haven, but wanted to receive other services from the Haven, such as lunch. This was possible – however, they needed to have a letter from a social service organization that confirmed their status as homeless, or a voucher from the Haven stating they have a free meal.
While my heart was full of joy because I was able to meet those who are working hard to repair their life and as well as actually helping to make a difference, my heart was also a bit broken. Homelessness is a pressing issue across the world, especially in major cities such as Cape Town or Washington, D.C. (where I attend school in America). It saddens me when I walk down the street, either here in Cape Town or even back home in Chicago, and I see a human laying on the street, with a thin blanket on top of them. The cure to homelessness is more than providing a bed for a night. It’s providing resources such as job training, or improving one’s financial literacy that leads to them to being able to walk out of the cycle of homelessness. However, when I’m reminded that there are organizations such as the Haven that exist, my broken heart begins to come together again. Because the Haven and similar nonprofits provide me with hope – hope that there are still many people out there who, like me, want to make the world a better place.