What a great year it has been for Rising Up! We had a very successful inaugural season for our warming center, and from where we began a year ago, we have grown and seen successes we couldn’t have even imagined! Today, as we move forward with plans to start a day center, we look back at our accomplishments from our first warming center season. It was one of our greatest honors to get to know not only the members of the homeless community, but those that came together with us to serve them. Through donations, volunteer hours and community partnerships, we have made a huge impact in our community.
Our experience at the warming center, was humbling and enlightening as we got to listen to our homeless neighbors tell their stories. Our volunteers who provided and served evening meals or stayed overnight at the Warming Center have firsthand knowledge of the population being served: veterans; people who are working but can’t afford to pay a first and last month’s rent; aging folks who must now rely on walkers, canes, or wheelchairs and people who have various health issues. We heard time and time again that volunteering at the shelter was a wonderful way to build relationships with our neighbors, and to help alleviate fears and stigmas associated with the homeless population. During this short 3-month period, lives were changed. Not only for our homeless neighbors, but for the people who connected with them through volunteerism.
As many witnessed through our work over the 2015-2016 winter months, the need is great. Over the 3 month period that the warming center was open we were able to help 29 neighbors with a warm place to sleep. We were also able to provide 800 meals to individuals that were hungry.
One of the biggest services we were able to offer our neighbors was connecting the dots for them to existing programs and agencies that could provide them with assistance in finding housing, jobs and healthcare. We were able to develop relationships with our neighbors that helped alleviate fears, and opened a door for them to trust us to lead them through the processes of filling out paperwork, setting up appointments and being personally accountable for making progress in their lives. As importantly, if not more, we provided hope, care and compassion. Our neighbors know that there is a place they can go, a place where people really do care about them.
One of the challenges we currently face is losing progress with our neighbors that was gained through the months that the warming center was open. We have tried to stay in contact with our neighbors as much as possible, but not having a “place” for them to go has hindered those efforts. That’s when we came up with the idea for a day center. The day center will serve as a place for our homeless neighbors to come and get help with connecting the dots to existing agencies, job searching and guidance, fellowship and a hot meal. Initially, we are looking at opening the day center 2 days a week to aid our neighbors as much as possible.
Currently, we are seeking grants to help bring Rising Up to the next level. As we move forward with plans for the day center, we are facing a challenge when it comes to balancing the timelines for receiving grants with the needs of our homeless neighbors. To continue our work and see greater success, we need the support of our community. Monetary support is, at this point, the most helpful, but we are also looking for potential ways in which we can partner to help our neighbors.
Community-wide collaboration is a goal we have held onto since we founded Rising Up—and only through collaboration have we been able to see the success we have over the last year. Alone, we can only do so much, but together, we can accomplish even more. It is the spirit of working together, that will make our programs successful and our community a safe and healthy place to live for everyone.