You are the answer: Investment of time as well as money helps in easing community crises | Columnists

It’s been a few years since I’ve worked at an organization in Fort Wayne that volunteered to be a warming shelter, but this time of year always floods my memories of those days when Monday morning quarterbacks and keyboard warriors aimed their public scrutiny our way.

Our facility was not a shelter by any stretch of the imagination; our contribution to the homeless epidemic was providing rent and mortgage assistance in prevention, as it’s statistically cheaper and less traumatizing to keep a family in a home than to rehome.

But we had a large building with a full-size gym for the children to play in and locker rooms with showers (for our youth center). So when temperatures dropped, we offered to stretch our resources to become a warming, and in extreme cold, overnight shelter.

This meant canceling programming for children. For anyone who understands nonprofit funding, that means the number you submit to foundations as served by your youth program now drops, and you have to work hard to prove why you need that funding when your numbers dipped.

This also meant that the skeleton crew of 10, already overworked in all of our programs, now had to manage that and a third shift for a pop-up overnight shelter with little notice.

Sometimes we didn’t have enough of a ratio of male/female or trained staff availability, and, oh, the scorn it brought when we couldn’t make it happen. Just like I’m reading the outcry now, I’d like to explain “why doesn’t everyone just become a shelter?” isn’t that easy.

1) “Just get volunteers!” This is my favorite; I still hear this one for any difficult task you can’t hire someone to do. It’s suddenly expected that because it’s a dire need, people will do it for free.

Sure, you can get volunteers. They often sign up with good intentions then realize what awaits them, or that it’s inconvenient to work all night long, or they’re sick/tired/lost interest and don’t show up. When this happens, there are rules that must be followed in ratio of staff to admissions, and they’re for the safety of everyone.

Also, “just get volunteers” means you need people trained to deal with the various physical health challenges, mental health conditions, addiction issues, violent outbursts, etc. When you “just get volunteers” without all of the necessities to deal with these very serious issues, you are putting everyone at risk.

2) “Hire more people to do it!” Funding isn’t exactly flowing in for nonprofits, and chances are they’re already maxed out for whatever programming they already are straining to provide. Most of these places that attempt to help can get no additional funds to do so, meaning it has to come from one of the existing programs.

3) “Prioritize this instead, and pull funding from what you’ve already got!” Sure. Do we take it from rent assistance, making more individuals homeless? NICU assistance, for babies fighting for their lives? Food programs, when children are already going hungry? These missions are equally important and deserve the commitments made.

So what is the answer? I give it back to you: You are the answer.

Your volunteering, your dollars to invest. Notice I say: invest.

Dollars given to nonprofits are not toss-away money. It’s an investment that says, “I care about this and will invest to live in a community that has it.”

It may be strange to hear a fellow executive director urging the public to invest in a cause she is not representing, but because I truly believe that everyone can do their part, that you can have a heart big enough to care about feeding children and providing safety and shelter for the homeless (and animal welfare, and veterans assistance, and etc.) I believe we as a community can rise up and say, “We will make this investment where there is a need.”

And, people, you can see this need.

Our community doesn’t need another cynic screaming into the void; we need action.

So if you’re wanting to see change, there are plenty of places in our community ready to take your investment.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

Get our latest downloads and information first. Complete the form below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

    Input this code: captcha