The Greensboro Voice serves as a vehicle for elevating voices and public discussion on issues not frequently covered in mainstream media. These issues include homelessness, facing potential homelessness and the resources available to help those in need.
I became homeless in December, 2013. I was not able to find housing until October, 2014. I am a heavy guy who has a lot of physical issues that also helped contribute to my disabilities. I suffer from degenerative disk disease which has also caused nerve damage down my legs, especially the left. This results in my falling quite a bit.
As it stands Greensboro Urban Ministries is located near the Interactive Resource Center and in spite its close proximity it would still take me two hours to walk there due to the need to stop and sit so often. I would also be in extreme pain by the time I would get to the IRC and this would only be compounded as I had to make the journey back to the shelter provided by GUM.
If these non-profit services are moved further away then it will be harder for those who have physical limitations needing these services. Really it will make it harder for anyone lacking transportation other than their own two feet.
Downtown Greensboro also offers more services for the homeless and near homeless than just the services that are offered by the IRC. There are also the services offered by places such as legal aid, mental health facilities and the Department of Health and Human Services. Moving the IRC further away would limit the ability for its clients to utilize all of these services that are currently located within close proximity to each other.
I also believe that moving the Interactive Resource Center further away from downtown could easily result in people spending less productive time waiting on computers at the library or sitting at the local McDonald’s killing time instead of spending it benefiting themselves with a GED or some other worthwhile service offered by the IRC. On the rare occasion that the IRC is closed for a holiday, this is usually how those hours were filled since there was no other place for the homeless to go.
Yes, I agree we need more job growth in downtown Greensboro. More jobs would benefit those who are looking for work in order to get off the streets. But we also need a place that is easily accessible to the homeless so that they can do laundry, see nurses, get their mail, and even apply to many of these jobs.
But should we make things more difficult for those who are already going through a difficult situation? If you think moving these services is a simple solution that won’t have deep impacts on the homeless then I can challenge you. Put yourselves in the shoes of the disadvantaged. Leave your money and car keys at home and try being homeless for a few weeks.
I have always truly appreciated everything the volunteers do for the homeless community and it does help make a difference in the lives of those going through these situations. But there is so much more that you have to live through to truly understand homelessness. Trying to explain in words to someone who has never lived the homeless life is difficult. Much the way a soldier can never truly describe war to a civilian if the civilian has never experienced it.
It’s something we take for granted. We get up in the morning and take a shower. If we need to wash our hands we go to the sink. If we want to wash our clothes we put them in the wash. For people living on the street and in tents, getting clean and staying clean is not so easy. Fortunately, in Greensboro, we have the Interactive Resource Center on Washington Street. For people who are homeless, being able to go there and take a shower and wash clothes is a real blessing. Unfortunately, for people who live away from downtown, it can be difficult for them to get to the IRC, especially on a daily basis. In California Doniece Sandoval came up with a solution: She turned retired city buses into mobile shower units.
Jim Rettig passed away last week. He leaves behind two sons and a sister. Jim was originally from Michigan. He came to Greensboro looking for a job after the recession put him out of a work. When I first met Jim at the Interactive Resource Center in 2015, he was homeless, jobless and broke. He also had no driver’s license which put him at a serious disadvantage. At that time, Jim was living at the Weaver House, a temporary homeless shelter operated by Greensboro Urban Ministry.
Jim had a couple of skills which he hoped would put him back into gainful employment. He was an artist and web designer. Unfortunately, neither field was hiring in Greensboro during or even after the economic recovery.
Jim joined the staff of the Greensboro Voice in 2015. He was very involved with all discussions, attended every staff meeting , wrote several articles, and would frequently cause laughter with his dry humor. Jim created and submitted several items of whimsical art for the Greensboro Voice which reflected that humor. A couple of years ago Jim also designed the honor card for the IRC’s year end fundraising program which was a sketch he did of the Greensboro Bus Depot.
In early 2016, Jim was approved for housing and soon afterwards he secured a part time job with UNCG helping people connect with medical benefits. Things were looking up for Jim but in 2016 he suffered a stroke. After making so much progress in his life, Jim wasn’t going to let it get him down and before long he’d bounced back and was his old self again.
Jim was always grateful, even for the smallest kindness shown to him by others. He was especially grateful for finding and joining a new church where he met and made many new friends. And he always seemed to find humor and hope even when he was struggling to find work and living in homelessness. I will miss Jim, and most of all I will miss his ability to find humor in even the most dire moments of life.
(The Interactive Resource Center or IRC is a day center for people experiencing homelessness or near homelessness.)
On the first day of work orientation, I befriended Kenneth, a co-worker. Kenneth was always well-dressed, always in a good mood, and hysterically funny. He excelled in all of the training modules, and helped me when I had difficulties with the material. When we had settled into our work, I was able to rely on Kenneth to help me with work-related snags, and on occasion we ate lunch together.
Kenneth had a son who was a College Junior. Kenneth beamed with pride when he talked about him. He often said his son was his best friend.
One week, Kenneth was unable to get his usual ride home. He asked if I would take him. Later that week, after we finished taking care of some of his errands, I asked him if there was anywhere else he needed to go, like the grocery store, or if he would like to get something to eat. He said no and looked at his watch. I took the hint and asked if he would like me to drop him off at the library where I’d picked him up.
“No,” he replied. “You can drop me off at the Salvation Army. I’m homeless.”
I was stunned. Kenneth had been homeless for over 5 years due to a series of unfortunate life events.
In hindsight, I realized why Kenneth was more excited about the new job than the rest of us. For him the job meant change and stability. He hoped one day to get a place of his own.
Kenneth gave me the opportunity to change my perspective of homeless individuals. Homelessness is not a look, an attitude, behavior or a condition. Homelessness is a life situation that for a multitude of reasons can befall any of us, at any time.
Many small not-for-profit social ventures attempt to set up shop but fail, not because of a lack of passion or vision but due to a difficulty in gathering startup capital. In most cases, it’s difficult to get funding because there are so many charities begging for the same dollars. In order to be successful and attract donor dollars, a charity quickly learns that it should be certified as a “non-profit” by the Internal Revenue Service. It’s expensive to hire a lawyer, get incorporated, apply for and receive the official 501(c)3 non-profit certification letter by the IRS. When a non-profit finally receives IRS certification, it may then seek funds from donors who desire the additional rewards of a tax deduction for their donation. If your charity has not been certified as a 501(c)3 organization, your donors will not receive a tax benefit.
The person who wants to start a charity must either have the money for 501(c)3 certification or beg for dollars from friends, friends-of-friends and/or set up a crowd-funding network to raise the start-up capital. Crowd funding, if done correctly can be beneficial but few people know all the strategic moves that must be taken during the process to reach their goal. The most successful crowd funding programs are those which are associated with a charity that is already certified as a 501(c)3 non-profit. Some crowd funding organizations will not help you unless you are already a certified non-profit.
This is where Community Ventures, Inc (CV) comes to the rescue! This company has already done all the early heavy lifting. It is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to partner with start-up social ventures which are not certified as 501(c)3 organizations. The win-win of this partnership is that the start-up contracts with “CV” to accept tax deductible donations from the project’s donors. Some donors then get a tax benefit depending on their tax status. Community Ventures, Inc pays out funds to the project as needed from time to time using the dollars in the project’s treasury. The costs to the social venture is a small initial set-up charge plus a small management fee depending on the degree of management the charity’s program requires of CV. That fee depends on the project and the support the venture needs to get started.
If you are a struggling social venture or charity and need a partner to jump-start your fund-raising program, you might want to make application to Community Ventures, Inc. Send an email to the following email address and “Channelle” will discuss the application process and if initial approval is made, she will set up an interview. You can also email Community Ventures, Inc to be added to their email contact list so they can let you know about their special programs on social entrepreneurship and supporting living wages for those who are underemployed in the Greensboro area.
Here is their email address: “firstname.lastname@example.org”