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  Issue 26 - Miscellaneous - Homeless For The Holidays

Homeless for the Holidays
By: Jameson Bauman

                Around the holidays is typically the best time of year, at least for most of us. We have wonderful holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, and New Years to celebrate amongst family and friends. There’s a chill in the air and smiles on everyone’s faces. We get to bring out our scarves that we don’t really need here in Vegas, but give that festive feeling, and hot chocolate becomes the drink of all drinks. Lights are all around lighting up the homes on your street and there’s more than a few Santa sightings around town as children jump on his lap to tell them what they want for Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of year for most of us, but sometimes we need to make sure we don’t take it for granted.

As well this time of year, the temperatures get a lot colder, and as we sleep snuggled up in our beds, there are those who don’t have a bed to lie in and warm blankets to cover themselves not to mention a soft pillow to rest their head on. While we’re feasting on turkey and eating just for the sake of eating, there are those who are looking through garbage cans for food hoping to find something that is warm and edible. Lastly, when we are ripping open presents and getting upset that we might not have gotten the right CD or the Xbox we thought we were getting but didn’t, there is someone out there who is hoping they can gather enough change from passersby in order to buy something to eat.

By all means I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade or make someone feel that they are selfish for partaking in any of these wonderful times, but we must remember there are those less fortunate than us who do not get to enjoy the same things as we do. It’s a sad truth, but there are those who are not home for the holidays, but homeless for the holidays. Instead of letting it get you down or even thinking to yourself, “Yeah, big deal. Someone else will take care of it,” why not do a few things within your power to help out?
In Las Vegas there are thousands of homeless that only need some of the basic things to survive. You might see them standing on the corner and feel bad to even look their way, and as they walk past your car you get this feeling of guilt in your stomach for not helping. May not, but I can say that I sometimes feel that way. Instead of feeling bad or guilty, here are some ways that you can help:

Show them Respect – many homeless people already feel a lack of dignity, so speak to them on the same level and treat them as you would want to be treated if you needed help.
Do Not Give Out Money – don’t give money out to the homeless on the street. Often times they will not use it for its intended using being that many homeless do suffer from addictions as well as insanity, so give them food/water or donate that same money to a shelter or mission.
Give Recyclables – the homeless often spend their time looking for items to recycle as it can be the only way they can make money aside from standing on the corner, so by collecting recyclables and bringing them to the homeless, or perhaps turning in those recyclables and then donating that money to a shelter.
Give Clothing – people without a home are often in need of new clothing as their’s becomes old and dirty and especially during the winter months, the more clothing the better.
Give Toys – by giving toys to a shelter, you’re giving young homeless something to take their mind off of their situation and depending on the toy, also helping to develop their skills through knowledge (giving a book) or physical activity (sporting goods).
Give Your Time – more than anything there is always needed help at missions and shelters, so donate even a few hours of your time helping out at a local shelter. Activities can be anything from serving and preparing food to playing with homeless children.

These are just a few of the things you can do in general to help out the homeless. More than anything always remember that they are people just like you who may have had some of the experiences as well.  Know that 50 – 60% of the homeless suffer from some form of mental illness that may be combined with substance abuse. As well 25 – 30% of the homeless are military veterans. Many of them are just like you who might have run into some financial problems leading them to rock bottom, and so give them the respect and the help that they deserve while always remembering you could one day be in the same situation.

Looking at ways that you can help out in the local Las Vegas area specifically, there are quite a few shelters that you can volunteer at or donate to in order to help. One of the larger shelters is The Shade Tree Shelter located in North Las Vegas. Last year the shelter helped 2,566 women and 1,421 children for a total of 80,971 nights of shelter and help. At their website, theshadetree.org there is an interesting and touching section titled “A Day in the Life of a Shelter Resident” as well as “A Thank You Letter from a Former Shelter Resident”. I encourage you to read them as they shed some light on how it is to benefit from the shelter as well as the situation some of these people are in. Once again, volunteer your time if you can or if she would like to donate items, here is a list of the most sought after:

(Items in bold are needed most)
Adults
Combs, White socks, adult size Spray deodorant, Paper Towels, Tampax/ Kotex, Vaseline or Hair Grease ,Postage stamps, Bathroom tissue, Facial tissue, Sandwich bags, Gallon size ziploc bags, Plastic forks & spoons, Paper plates, Styrofoam cups & bowls, Batteries, Hair gel & mousse, Wash cloths and towels, Toothpaste and brushes.

Children
Pedialyte, Baby Bottles, Sippy Cups (new please), Diapers-Size 6

Donating any of these things to the shelter would be of great help and would benefit those in need greatly.

Helping out this holiday season is a great way to give a gift to yourself and to those around you. It never feels better than to help those in need and hopefully in doing so, you can enjoy what you have all the more. Get involved with family and friends and don’t forget to share love with those around you. It only takes a few hours of your time and someone out there will benefit so much from your generosity and help.

I wish you all the best of holiday seasons and hope that you get the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life; there’s nothing more rewarding.

More information:
The Shade Tree Shelter for the Homeless
1 West Owens
North Las Vegas, NV 89030
(702) 385-0072
Theshadetree.org

The Las Vegas Rescue Mission
480 W. Bonanza Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89106
(702) 382-1766
Vegasrescue.org

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