Apr 22, 2011

Jake Maguire's picture Posted By Jake Maguire

Volunteer Crosses Country, Sticks with Campaign

Being part of a national movement means getting the chance to work with dedicated volunteers across the country. But not many volunteers get the chance to help out in multiple Campaign communities.

Beverly Thomas is an exception.

About a year ago, Beverly volunteered during Registry Week in Charlotte, NC. Recently, she made a major life change when she moved to Southern California, but one thing that didn't change was her commitment to the Campaign. In fact, next week in Glendale, CA, Beverly will be among the crowd of volunteers hitting the streets in the pre-dawn hours to find and survey the local homeless population. Again.

What motivates someone to stick with the Campaign from coast to coast?

Beverly emailed us this weekend to say it's all about the Registry Week experience:

In Charlotte North Carolina it was cold and misty on the second day of registry week last spring.  Just before sunrise our team arrived at an abandoned house where we believed a small group of homeless people were sleeping.  Liz, our team leader and staff member at the Urban Ministry Center, began calling out “hello” as she knocked on the boarded up door.  We heard movement inside but again, no one answered.  This was our second attempt to make contact.  Finally, someone recognized Liz’s voice and stepped out to talk to us.  Among those we surveyed at the house was a woman identified as vulnerable, due to her medical condition.  Thankfully, she got the treatment she needed that day.

At the center we refer to our homeless people as neighbors.  Being a long time volunteer I thought I had a pretty good understanding of homelessness.  My experience during registry week illustrated how much more the neighbors could teach me.  As a survey team member my role had been reversed.  I entered into their space; into the encampments and abandoned buildings, asking for their time and disclosure of intimate details about their situations.  This was very new to me, interacting with neighbors in their environments, as their guest.  I saw their anger when they felt intruded upon and their skepticism that anything beneficial would come from our efforts to create a registry.  I also saw gratitude in their eyes, when they felt that someone cared, and heard other volunteers share their stories about the hospitality they received. 

Registry week had a profound impact on me; one that will not soon, if ever fade.  Not only did I discover my affinity for doing outreach, I also gained a deeper understanding of chronic homelessness and of those who experience it.  The exchanges that took place gave me a greater sense of the human interconnectedness we all share and strengthened my belief that homelessness is everyone’s problem.   Registry week renewed my passion for this work and my commitment to educate others on the persistent misconceptions around it as a way to help finally put an end to homelessness.