After having a couple of days to reflect on the 100K Homes street canvassing, I was able to think back on how important this project was for the Wake and Orange county communities. I feel very honored that I was able to be in the heart of it all. Waking up at 2:50 AM for three mornings in a row was definitely exhausting but our team (which consisted of people from Triangle Family Services, an employee from the VA, and a volunteer just wanting to be a part of something great) was able to see the rewards on our final morning.
Tuesday morning, we were all geared up to go with our blankets, food, and toiletry bags to hand out. We were equipped with flashlights and coffee and ready to hit the streets. Not knowing what to expect, we set out in my small SUV ready to give surveys to anyone we could find. We were on a mission to search our area on the map the best we could. We came across several empty campsites and really got to see up close how some homeless people lived. They were truly innovative when it came to securing their shelter and the materials that they utilized in order to keep a dry place to sleep. Sadly at the end of that morning, we went back to our base site at the Safety Club to report our findings and hear from other teams. It was refreshing to know that other teams were able to find success in their search areas and we could only count our losses and think of the next two days with a positive outlook.
Wednesday morning started off similar to Tuesday, waking up bright and early, it felt like I had just laid my head down to go to sleep before hearing the alarm clock sound off. We geared up, now with two additional volunteers from Triangle Family Services to help in our street canvassing. It was a colder morning than the day before and we were a little more tired but we pushed through and started off where we ended the day prior thinking that we might try our luck one more time. But to no avail, no one was found. Again, we headed back to the Safety Club to see what others had found and to get our game plan for our final day.
Thursday morning was the hardest one. I was tired and drained and really just wanted to sleep. But coffee was able to lure me out of bed and give me enough energy at least to get going. Our group had dwindled down to 4 people. We were ready. We set our goal for the morning to find one person. We started off walking the tracks behind the prison (along with the help and safety of our officer and sheriff) and did not have any luck. So then we tried one other location and SUCCESS!! We found someone. We were happy to find this man and offer him food, hot coffee, an extra blanket, and some toiletries. What touched me the most was being able to piece together parts of his story through what he was telling us when answering the survey and to know that he had been on the streets for a very long time but still had hope for finding housing. After returning again one last time to the Safety Club, we learned of another hotspot for unsheltered individuals so we headed out again and were able to have eight more SUCCESSES!
I think the thing that warmed my heart the most was seeing a diverse group of people with different skills and employment backgrounds come together for a common cause. I was pleased to know that so many others cared about these individuals the same way I do and wanted to reach out to them. I think that really sums up the United Way organization and what it stands for. LIVE UNITED!
NCSU MSW Intern