Habitat ECS | 'I wanted to do something better, but I didn’t know what better was'
Our day was supposed to start by heading to the local Care and Share, whose core purpose is to bridge the gap between hunger and abundance. Their mission is to provide food, partnering opportunities, and education to fight hunger in Southern Colorado. Every day they provide food to neighbors in need because they have one belief: No one should go hungry. However, we had originally planned to visit this organization earlier in the ECS, but due to a winter bomb cyclone, that fell through. Unfortunately, Care and Share was not able to reschedule our workday this week, so our plans for the day changed.
For our last day off of campus on the Habitat ECS, we started off by researching to find a bus that could get all of us to the Penrose Library after discovering the teachers would be having us ride the public transportation system instead of giving us the luxury of a van in order to “walk a mile in the shoes” of those experiencing homelessness who often have no choice but to utilize this system. It was a little stressful as well as eye opening to see all of the needed information to take a bus. After finding the price, times, etc., we started heading in the chilly morning weather to the Broadmoor bus station. After getting off of the bus, we walked to the Penrose Library where we spent some time researching for our final project. Students are in groups of two and must prepare to propose a solution for either a specific group of homeless individuals or a specific problem that they face on the last day of the ECS. These projects make students really think outside of the box and try to create a solution that is different to some of the organizations already out there. By visiting all of the different organizations that we have been to, we get an amazing opportunity to see some really unique perspectives all on one very important issue.
Throughout the day, we mostly got around on our feet or on the bus. For most of us, this was a very new experience. Only a couple of people in the group had ever ridden on the Colorado Springs public transportation. It was really fun for everyone to see what public transportation can be like and some of the struggles that those experiencing homelessness must face every day when they want to get around but do not have a car of their own. Many homeless individuals ride the bus multiple times a day in order to get where they need to. After leaving Penrose Library, we walked to Bambino’s to enjoy an early lunch as a group before heading to the bus terminal to catch the bus for our next location.
In the afternoon, we got to visit Homeward Pikes Peak, an organization whose mission statement is “to support individuals to achieve their full potential in recovery from substance abuse and to exit homelessness and move towards permanent housing.” It was really neat to learn more about this program and really dive in and ask some wonderful questions about the organization. We talked with Beth who is the Executive Director at Homeward Pikes Peak and informed us a lot more about the organizations and what it does. This organization was one of the more established ones we have visited and actually has several different kind of branches. Some of these branches include: Harbor House Residential (stable supportive housing that addresses homelessness and addiction), Housing First (intensive housing for individuals and families who are struggling with mental health, substance abuse, and long-term homelessness), Housing First Veteran Specific Housing (intensive housing for Veterans struggling with disabilities and homelessness), Bloom Recovery Home (stable supportive housing program for pregnant mothers (or mothers with infants) struggling with substance abuse), and Project Detour (housing program for women struggling with opioid and/or alcohol addictions). We got to look a lot deeper and learn a lot more about these various programs.
After talking with Beth, we heard from two fantastic stories from individuals, Daniel and Kristi, who lived the life of homelessness and actually went through the program. This reminded many students of when NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness, came to talk to us and shared their life stories as well. By hearing personal stories, I think many students better connect with what they are hearing and these personal accounts can really help to pique interest. It was truly amazing to hear how both of these individuals recovering from substance abuse, one being a veteran and the other having been to jail, were able to overcome many of the obstacles that life threw at them and get the help they needed to deal with many issues, such as domestic violence, criminal charges, etc. Both of these former clients now help out and work at Homeward Pikes Peak. It was really great to hear both of these success stories. Besides NAMI, I think this experience reconnected us with the very first day of ECS when we spoke to Ken from Humane Kind. He discussed with us how most of the homeless population struggle with substance abuse but it is really hard to get out of that type of situation when it is all around you on the streets. The quote above shows is from Daniel, one of the individuals who shared his story. It was really eye opening for some of us to hear this. It made us discover that this can definitely be a common theme for those experiencing homelessness. Many people wish to have a better life but do not know exactly what that could look like, much less how to get there.
Overall, I think today was a very thrilling day. Students got to ride the bus for the first time, learn about all of the different complications that may come when riding the bus, and listen to some wonderful real life stories from two individuals who actually walked the life of homelessness.
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