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A Better Understanding of Homelessness


Taylor and Caroline

18th of July, 2018


Detroit '18

Today we visited the Bell Building in Highland Park. They focus on housing the homeless before treating their problems/addictions. Their main focuses are alcoholics, drug addicts, people with mental disabilities, and the chronically homeless. One thing that separates their homeless shelter from others is their ability to accept homeless people despite their addictions. Most homeless shelters have certain criteria or qualifications that need to be met in order to give them a place to stay. I found it interesting that some shelters were only opened to single mothers with children; they wouldn’t allow single fathers to stay with their own children. To think if an entire family applied for a homeless shelter they would make the father stay somewhere else.

I found the hard work it takes to house a single person interesting. The workers’ dedication to end homeless really shows through their work ethic. It can take up to a year just to recover somebody’s personal ID. To work at one of the homeless shelters takes dedication and a true passion and desire to completely end the idea of homeless in Detroit.

One generalization I found is that people assume if you donate to a street beggar or homeless person they will just purchase drugs/alcohol. I spent time talking to a woman named Patricia or “Patty” as her friends say. She was so kind and welcoming and personally I enjoyed talking to her. She told me about her family, and I was fairly surprised about the success of her family. She has a daughter that cheerleads for the Chicago Bulls, and she has a cousin that was a former cheerleader for the NFL. Her two nephews got full-ride football scholarships to D2 schools. Patricia’s other two cousins play in the NFL. One of them plays for the New York Jets and one plays for the Cleveland Browns. This showed me that she was content with such little she was given, and she will always have a family to lean on when necessary. – Taylor

Today, we started off the day at the Tumaini Shelter for homeless people. However, it is not your normal shelter. Unlike other shelters, they let anyone in (alcohol/drug addicts, mentally ill, and people who are still using). They are also open 24 hours, where other shelters are only usually open from 6 pm to 8 am. I was very nervous going into the homeless shelter because I had never been to one before and I did not know what to expect. Despite that, I learned so much from a woman named Jamie who explained to us how hard it is to work at a homeless shelter and that it is not as simple as taking people in for the night.

After we went to the Tumaini Shelter, we drove to their housing facility, the Bell Building, where formerly homeless people who are drug/alcohol addicts, or mentally ill can live in a small apartment. One lady I met there while playing bingo really stood out to me. She had lived in Detroit her whole life and has a 16 year old daughter who was living with her mother. As we asked her more and more questions, she began to open up to us. We discovered that she owns a business where she sells fragrances, candles, and homemade face masks. As we were leaving she stopped us and asked us a very deep question: what is the meaning of life? At first, I was shocked; I didn’t know what to say. Was she seriously asking me, a 14 year old girl who she just met, what the meaning of life is? I then realized yes, she was serious, so I decided to be serious. I told her to follow her heart and do whatever makes her happy. I encouraged her to pursue her business and visit her daughter more often. Even though this caught me off guard, I realize she really was asking me what she should do with her life once she leaves the Bell Building. When we first started talking to her, she asked us why we were talking to her and why we cared about coming to Detroit. She was probably confused because she had not had anyone listen or talk to her in a very long time. This opened my eyes to how much of an impact we are making; even if it is on very few people, we made them happy. I hopefully guided this lady on the right path to happiness, and now I hope that she will pass that onto her mother and daughter. This trip, and even just today, changed my life for the better, because now I know never to doubt what I am doing, because I am making an impact on someone. – Caroline



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