Entitlement and Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter
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Politics and Activism

Entitlement and Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter

How volunteering at a homeless shelter changed my outlook on privilege and entitlement.

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Entitlement and Volunteering at a Homeless Shelter
St. Stephen's Homeless Assistance

Giving time and service back to the community is a very valuable thing. In this society, it is very easy to take for granted the services and the opportunities that we are given. It had taken me a very long time to realize the errors of my ways, until I had volunteered at a local homeless shelter in my hometown over the last winter break.

The Samaritan Ministries is a Christian organization that allows men to live with the promise of a bed and three meals a day, while also allowing them to connect with local organizations with job openings. I volunteered as an overnight volunteer. My time consisted of preparing food, cleaning up, keeping tabs on the residents and also socializing with them throughout the evening.

Many of the men there were alcoholics, drug addicts, maybe had a few run ins with the law, had no family really to speak of, and had recently hit "rock-bottom" and needed help getting back onto their feet. I had misconceptions of homeless, a very negative one in fact, until I had the opportunity to work with them. The counselor who was in charge that night had been sober for over twenty years, served in the military, and had been a resident of a similar organization many years before. He had hit rock-bottom when he found himself sprawled on some railroad tracks with tattered clothing, no money, no home, and no family to help him. While I did not know any of them personally, and what each of them went through, this was definitely an opportunity to turn themselves around and become better citizens.

Many call millenials the most entitled generation, and while I have agreed to that statement multiple times, some of these men were not much older than me, were quite the opposite, just on experience alone. It was my responsibility to wake up the men who had to go to work early in the morning so that they would not be late. One man worked at Krispy Kreme and was one of the ones who prepared fresh doughnuts every morning. He was about 22, and woke up everyday to go to work at 4 in the morning. Another man was a warehouse worker for the postal service and had to be woken up at 3:30 in the morning in order to get to work on time. He had to walk several miles to get to work and back.

I did not find these men to be entitled, in fact I found them to be deeply humbled by their life experiences alone. For me it was unfathomable to undergo the sobering experiences that they went through early on. But just by interacting with some of these men, it gave me a sliver of hope that made me think more positively of this generation.

Giving time for another individual, let alone a group of individuals, is a very life changing experience. Our society is based of off the individual, individual freedoms, individual rights, and individual emotions. While good, it quickly diminishes the value of the next man or woman next to us, whether in a homeless shelter or the cubicle beside us. While there is some individual gratification from giving time to another, there is a much larger collective benefit that involves the betterment of society as a whole.

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