Over 600,000 Americans today are considered homeless. But this number is only a fraction of the real total, as many who have become homeless remain hidden from society. But those who are willing to share their stories offer a lot of insight about life’s journey.
A seminar to raise awareness and share stories about homelessness was held in early October on campus titled: “I am not who you think I am: A Conversation on Homelessness.” The program introduced Worcester State University students to two people who have experienced homelessness, and are now living in their own housing with the help of programs like the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA). A representative from MHSA was also a guest speaker.
Ed Ellis and Cheryl Blanchard each spoke about their individual paths to becoming homeless, getting involved with drugs and alcohol, and how they were both rescued, in a sense, by programs. But in the end, as Blanchard put it, “I had to find Cheryl.” Both said they realized that, ultimately, they had to rescue themselves.
According to MHSA representative Kendra Hanlon, counts of homeless people in the United States exceed 633,000, but she noted that it is impossible for this number accurate, as there are many who remain hidden, and that at any given time there could be more than 2 million homeless people.
“Most people see people begging on the side of a road and they think that they are lying about their need for the money,” said Ellis. “Ten to 15 years ago, that might have been the case, but with today’s number of homeless out there, I highly doubt those people out there are lying. You can’t control what a person is going to do with that dollar you gave them, but in the end that is not up to you at that point, and all you can do is try and help.”
In the question and answer session, Worcester State students wanted to know what they could do to help alleviate this social problem.
“Listening to us today is the first step,” said Hanlon. “Volunteering is also important, but very often homeless people need someone to listen to them, someone to care.”
If you would like to learn more or assist with MHSA and programs like them, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 617-367-6447.
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