Homeless, But Not Helpless

Homeless, But Not Helpless

New programs and initiatives are getting homeless people back to work.

This past March, Frederick Callison, who had been homeless in Sacramento for two years, got a job.

How did he do it? Each day, he sat outside of a grocery store, like many other homeless men and women. But rather than simply hold up a sign begging for money, he had a pile of resumes stacked neatly beside him. Callison has a large and impressive background of cooking work and kitchen management, but after some bad luck, he ended up living without work or a home for two years.

Rather than give up and become defeated, Callison maintained faith in his own skills and experience and proactively sought out new work, handing out his resume to anyone who'd take it. And his tactic--distributing resumes rather than panhandling for spare change--eventually paid off. After a man going grocery shopping saw Callison sitting outside, he spoke with him for a while, and picked up his resume. He posted it on Facebook, commending the homeless man on his determination to improve his life, and asked his friends to pass it along. Not long after, Callison was offered a job cooking in a downtown pizza restaurant.

His story has since spread widely as an example of why the stereotypes of homeless people can often be far from the truth. There are plenty of others like him who have run into misfortune, lost jobs or family, and have been forced to live on the streets. But that doesn't mean they aren't competent, hard workers who crave a better life and the chance to work.

On a single night in January of 2015, an estimated 564,708 people were homeless in the United States, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. This statistic includes all people sleeping outside or in emergency shelters and housing programs. In the past two years, 33 states reported decreased homelessness, while 16 states had increased overall homelessness. Veteran homelessness is also slowly decreasing throughout the country. And though the problem may be getting slowly better in many areas of the country, homelessness still remains a large problem in the U.S., and one that many organizations and individuals are working to combat.

Last year in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a program was started to pay the homeless to do daily work. Each morning, a city van drives through various neighborhoods, asking homeless individuals if they'd like to work for the day and be payed $9/hour (which is above the minimum wage). They can take up to 10 people per day to do beautification and landscaping jobs around the city. The van's driver, Will Cole, said in an article that it typically isn't hard to find 10 people who are more than willing to work, though they get a few no's from time to time as well.

Cole's van is one of several recent initiatives enacted by the state of New Mexico in an attempt to provide more resources for the homeless, and to help them get off the streets.

More and more, I hear news of new homeless housing projects or citizens finding creative ways to help the homeless. Even so, the public perspective of the homeless remains fairly negative. Many people tend to assume that people are homeless because they're criminals, uneducated, drug addicts, and so on. While this can certainly be the case for some, it's also true that many homeless people simply ran into misfortune, lost a job or couldn't afford to feed their families. There are plenty of good, honest, hardworking people who ended up without a home, and would do anything to turn their lives around.

As time goes on, it's more and more important that people who are homeless and looking for work try new tactics like Callison did, rather than give up all hope. At the same time, it's also essential that organizations like the National Alliance to End Homelessness, StandUp for Kids, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, and many others continue receiving the funding and support they need to eventually end homelessness for good.

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Breaking The Deafening Silence

We are done being painted as anything but human.

My skin is a map of my life.

It bears every scar, blemish and wound ever inflicted upon me. It holds the stories of the generations that came before me, all the different crossroads coming together to form me.

My skin is the final outcome of the harmonization of distinct languages, first loves, and heartbreaks, the bloodshed of wars, of diaspora caused by colonialism and imperialism.

I am the conclusion of untold stories, the result of a time long gone but not forgotten. I am the product of my ancestors’ toil.

We are taught to love ourselves, to embrace our differences, to accept our flaws. At the same time, we are commanded to adhere to all of society’s expectations. In the process of enacting such ideas upon ourselves, we lose a pertinent part of our self-identity. We become one of many, no longer one of a kind.

We recognize the role our appearances play in how we are treated in daily life and understand how this feeds into our own insecurities and mindsets.

If we acknowledge the diversity among women, we pull back the metaphorical curtain that hides us from the face of society. We open up new opportunities, new experiences, new abilities -- even chances at a better life -- for women of color, some who have never encountered such freedom before.

Words will always be too limiting in a world so accustomed to categories. We must try our best to break all of this apart.

Despite enormous strides in recent years, women of color still face hurdles when it comes to education, employment or even just being accepted for who they are. Whether it is discrimination against the color of our skin, the shape of our bodies, the texture of our hair or any language barriers, we take a backseat when it comes to many of life’s opportunities.

Center for Women Policy Studies found 21% of women of color surveyed did not feel they were free to be "themselves at work." The same study found more than one-third of women of color believed that they must downplay their race or ethnicity to succeed.

In the world of STEM, women comprise only 8.5% of the country’s engineers and earn 13% less than their male counterparts. Less than half of Ph.Ds in a science or technology field are earned by women. Such stigmas are only manifested and fueled by our often distorted perception of the society around us.

We should be enough as we are. Our intentions should not be questioned and our abilities should not be doubted. We want to be seen for who we are, past such segregations, to only our inner selves existing in whatever kind of body we wish to be in.

There is a significant pay gap that exists between men and women in the workforce, which detaches even further when women of color are involved. While women overall make 77 cents for every dollar the average white male makes, African American women and Hispanic women respectively make 70 cents and 61 cents.

This leads to women of color facing lower wages and high rates of unemployment, a perpetual downward spiraling machine. Depression and anxiety become too prevalent. The issues of wage disparity, gender stereotyping and underrepresentation in the workplace leave women of color grappling for solutions we cannot seem to find.

In the meantime, in many sectors of the economy, the “glass ceiling” continues to stay intact.

The growing amount of fallacious views towards those who do not fit societal American norms -- whether it is because of appearance or culture -- proposes that the solution lies not in ostracizing and pointing fingers, but in working side by side to dismantle fabricated beliefs.

Diversity makes us stronger as human beings because it is a collaboration of new perspectives. Diversity recognizes that women with different backgrounds, skills, attitudes, and experiences can bring fresh ideas and perceptions. Therefore, we should learn to value these differences.

I believe that what is missing is a lack of understanding between cultures, and that acceptance of our differences will come only with a greater knowledge we can pass on to future generations.

Exclusivity is not going to take us anywhere. If people were more willing to see the good in others, that would make us all stronger as a society. We should learn to love and accept, to distinguish between the good and bad.

That is what makes up the very core of us as human beings.

Cover Image Credit: Pavan Gupta

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9 Things You Remember Thinking While Questioning Your Sexuality

"I mean, girls are just subjectively pretty! Everyone thinks that!"

For most queer individuals, we started to recognize our identity when we were around 14 or 15, even if we only realize that looking back on it. There are little thoughts that only seem flamboyantly queer when you are reminiscing. For this article, I wrote it in a very sapphic way of recognizing your sexual identity, but that is only because I was assigned female at birth and I sure do love girls. However, no matter what gender(s) you are attracted to, all of these thoughts have passed through your head before, during, and after questioning.

1. "Wow, she's really pretty! Why doesn't every boy like her?"

Remember that one girl who just seemed really underappreciated in middle school? Why did none of the boys in your grade ask her to semi-formal? If you could, you would have! But of course, girls can't ask other girls out, that'd be crazy.

2. "No, I'm not gay, I just don't like immaturity"

Remember when you just couldn't understand why all your friends were crushing on such immature people? How could they lower their standards to such immature people? You were so much better than them because you didn't have a crush at all. You were so mature.

3. "Huh, I don't like anyone in my grade, I must be asexual!"

Nothing against asexuality, it's a beautiful, valid identity that has it's own diverse community and struggles within modern society, but every gay person had a moment when questioning when they'd prefer to be single than admit the truth of being some level of sexually queer.

4. "I mean, I like boys enough. I must be straight!"

Bisexuals, pansexuals, and those of flexible sexualities, I'm looking at you right now. I know I thought the same thing, but trust me, you'll be so much happier when you recognize your identity.

Also, if you are ever with someone, boy, girl, non-binary, gender queer, et cetera, and they don't accept your identity? End it.

It doesn't make a bisexual girl straight just because she's with a boy. It doesn't make a pansexual boy gay if he's with another man.

5. "Doesn't everyone think girls are pretty?"

If you are saying this while hanging up a poster of Florence Welch, I got some bad news for you. All girls are pretty, but you are finding them pretty in a much different way than all your peers are. No matter what gender you are attracted to, most queer individuals will start wondering if they are gay once they realize their attractions aren't the social norm.

6. "I'm not gay, guys, I'm just a really strong ally"

Being an ally is like dipping your toes in the gay pool. Some will realize that they should stay out of that pool, they are too straight and the water isn't for them. However, for some, after dipping our toes in, we just want to dive right in, walk in solely, or wait for awhile before going into that pool.

7. "Ah, crap. I think I might be gay"

Yep, we all had that realization. It sucks and there's no way around that. Just know, you aren't alone.

8. "I'll think about this later, I've got studying to do"

Realizing you're gay and thinking about the exact labels you want to define yourself by is a lot, and for me, I had calculus to be studying. There's a reason it takes people years to come out of the closet.

9. "Yep, I've definitely been gay since I was in second grade and crushing on every cartoon goth girl"

Everyone who was assigned female at birth who also likes girls had a crush on Shego from Kim Possible. I don't make up the rules here, people.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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