March 22, 2014
Finding the right approach...
We have all three determined that the best way to present about homelessness is to go where there are homeless people and try to immerse ourselves in their world, just for an evening.
I was able to be in touch with a friend in Denver, Diana Flahive. She is an instigator of love for those that need it the most. Her organization, CHUM, has opened five churches, one each night of the week, to women who are living on the streets. A meal is served and cots are available for a better night's sleep than one might get under a bush somewhere.
We are especially interested in older women, but also want to connect with women who may have their children with them. These mothers usually get more priority for housing and support, in the hope that saving the children from long-term homelessness will help break some cycles of poverty, trauma and struggle.
March 30, 2014:
Regrouping here, after spring break. We have not set a night, yet, to go to Denver. Charla has some concern about scheduling around evening classes. Diana is a little hard to catch, so I'm waiting to call her until the three of us can pick a day. We will need to be there by 5 and are bringing food to feed 25 people. Lots to think about in terms of coordination.
We are dividing homeless issues for women into three categories:
Joy Redstone, Narapa's own addiction counselor and former Executive Director of Boulder Bridge House will be meeting with Pia to be interviewed about her experiences in helping women get off the street and into a healthy phase of life.
Crime & Safety Concerns: Charla
We have a Boulder County District Attorney, Stan Garnett, who is deeply committed to addressing and preventing crime against homeless women. He sees them as a very vulnerable population, and is working to understand the patterns of violence that some homeless women are subjected to. I will connect Charla to Stan's office, so she can investigate current statistics for the Boulder/ Denver area, and learn more about how this most important aspect is being addressed by levels of government and law enforcement.
Food and General Wellness: Jade
Jade was homeless for two years, due to the chronic illnesses she has, Environmental Illness (EI) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). By working to access services as if it were a full time job, she was finally housed through a county program in July of 2011, and began her Naropa adventure that fall. Jade needs healthy food to get and stay better, and she will share about her odyssey in working with the various food banks and places to catch a free meal. She has twice interviewed Michael Stafford Crane, Director of Operations at Community Food Share.
We will be providing food for about 25 people for an evening of volunteerism with Capital Hill United Ministries (CHUM) and their Women's Homeless Initiative. We hope to visit with some of the women, and better understand the outreach efforts of this organization. We have not yet set a date for our visit, but hope to schedule it soon.
April 2, 2014
We are almost confirmed for a date to visit the Women's Homeless Initiative! It's looking like Friday, April 18th, which is Good Friday. Charla is checking to see when she can get away from a previous obligation, and may have to join Pia and me a little later. We are going to provide the meal for 24 people for the evening, so this will take some planning and resources. I may try to fund raise for the cost of the food.
April 10, 2014 Notes from meeting:
We are set for our adventure in downtown Denver! On Friday, April 18th, Pia, Charla and I will first be meeting with Diana Flahive, an amazing mover and shaker in the Capitol Hill service scene. We'll have an hour with her in her lovely home, then go up the street to the First Unitarian Church on Lafayette and 14th Street. The Site Coordinator for the evening with the Women's Homeless Initiative, Matt LeMay, has been in touch with me and is looking forward to our good help.
Big ol' pot of chicken soup with loads of organic veggies
Some sort of soft, comforting bread or bisquits
Another organic veggie? Maybe green beans?
Dessert: Brownies? Apple pie?
One of the challenges for many of these women is that they have dental issues and many cannot eat anything that is hard to chew. We are meeting after class today to fine tune the food details and get our travel plans in place.
One sweet, sweet story: I was at my chiropractor's office on Tuesday and mentioned our project. At the end of the session, Dr. Tara Bonvillian suggested that I take the money for the appointment and apply it to the food costs!
April 11, 2014: We have been instructed to review the Volunteer Handbook for the Women's Homeless Initiative, prior to our arrival:
Also, I'll be attending a memorial service on Saturday for the homeless woman found dead near Boulder Creek on April 4th with Joy Redstone. Anyone is welcome. I'll post location information, but I think it's at the site her body was found, just east of Broadway on Boulder Creek.
April 12, 2014
Pia, Charla and I met on Thursday, April 10th, after class, for a check-in.
Scheduled interviews: Pia is meeting with Joy Redstone next Tuesday; Charla is still scheduling with Stan Garnett's office. Jade is interviewing Michael Stafford Crane with Community Food Share on Wednesday, April 16th.
Food: How to purchase, prepare and transport; Pia has a gift card for an Italian restaurant. We called and it would cost $155 to pick up food from them. The gift card is for $30.00. I suggested fund raising and encouraged asking for money to go toward the food. We are all three low on funds at the end of the semester...
Travel arrangements to Diana Flahive's in Denver; Pia will arrive on her own. Charla and I are carpooling from Naropa, meeting in the parking lot at 2:30. We meet at Diana Flahive's at 3:30, then go on to the church at 4:30.
We will all review the Volunteer Handbook, and prepare questions for our time with Diana.
Concerns about the evening: None voiced, other than the money part for the food.
April 17, 2014: It's coming together! The women's shelter is at First Unitarian Church, where we are expected at 4:30 tomorrow. We are bringing salad makings and dessert, and ordering pizzas. We will pass the hat in class today to fund-raise.
The memorial service was hard. It turned into street performance at one point, and was pretty entertaining. We each dropped a flower into the creek where CJ's body was found.
I saw an old friend, Ariana, whose story is also in the book, Until They have Faces. She is transgendered and has a son who was with her for a while. She looked like death warmed over and is obviously not doing well. I held her, rocked her, we cried together.