Monday, April 20, 2009

How to respond to panhandling?

When someone asks you for a dollar on the sidewalk, do you ever wonder what would be the most effective way to help?

Born out of a series of meetings between faith groups, businesses and local residents of the Polk Gulch District, the Welcome Ministry listens deeply to the needs of those living in poverty, the community and city government. Our programs not only fill in the gaps between what the city and other organizations provide, but focus on the crucial barriers that prevent people from improving their quality of life.

For example, when the Welcome Ministry learned that lack of identification was preventing hundreds of homeless individuals from gaining access to city and organizational resources, we developed the Homeless Identification Project. As a result organizations with ten times the budget of the Welcome Ministry began referring their clients to us. While helping 224 people obtain their birth certificate and 121 obtain state issued identification may not seem like much, the program enabled more than 155 individuals obtain housing in 2008.

This year, the Welcome Ministry is creating two crucial new programs. As we began to help our formerly homeless guests move indoors, we learned that their new homes do not have proper cooking facilities. Instead of giving out food like a typical food pantry, with an assumption that individuals have a way to cook groceries, the Urban Food Share Program will provide pre-cooked take home meals, opportunities for communal cooking and gardening and health and
nutrition classes.

But the needs of those living in poverty go beyond food and shelter, many of our guests have trauma from military service, domestic or childhood abuse, violence or as a result of years living on the streets. Stress and anxiety from trauma can be debilitating. Classes and direct one-on-one care will enable many of the most vulnerable in our community to cope with or heal from the trauma that prevents them from improving their quality of life.

If you are like the Welcome Ministry, and you want to invest in small changes that can make a big difference in addressing the root causes of homelessness, please join our unique community of San Franciscans responding to homelessness, one person, one sidewalk, one city at a time.

Support the Welcome Ministry

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