Remembering Forgotten neighbors

29 Nov



Remember a forgotten neighbor for the holidays

Two years ago when I first heard about CHS holiday gift card need, I “adopted” a family. They asked for an Eat n Park gift card so the single father of two could take his kids out for a holiday meal.  The father also asked for gift cards to specific retailers so he could purchase his kids a few presents. He asked for nothing for himself. We threw in a card for him to get something he wanted as well.

(I’m such a sap that I am already welling up…)

Last year I adopted adults who were alone.  A man living at the Y asked for a winter coat and new tennis shoes and a food basket for his room so he could have snacks. When asked to be specific about what food he wanted he asked for a bag of chips and some cookies.

A young man, just 25 with no family, living in a group home asked for gift cards to Wal Mart, Giant Eagle and Target because he rarely has money to buy anything for himself.  He also likes to go out to eat so requested gift cards to Subway, McDonalds or Arbys.

These are simple, simple asks.  The every day struggles faced by people who see a subway gift card or a bag of chips as a rare treat are unimaginable to me.

You can make a difference in their holidays by donating a gift card to CHS.

Its the lonely adults that devastate me. Kids still have a chance. They receive (rightfully) a lot of empathy and support. But when we see the disheveled and dirty homeless woman sitting in starbucks to stay warm, what do we do? We look away. We ignore. We feel helpless and heartbroken, but most of us don’t do anything. I believe everyone deserves to be warm, and fed, and I wish for everyone the inner warmth and satisfaction that comes from companionship.  No one starts off life thinking “when I grow up I’m going to sleep over a subway grate.”  Or “when I grow up people will avoid looking me in the eye because my very existence will make them uncomfortable.”

But that is the reality for many homeless adults,  and those with mental illness –and especially and particularly homeless adults with mental illness.  Its a hard life. And without family, a solitary and desperate existence is all that there is for many mentally ill adults.

I know that giving a holiday gift card does as much to ameliorate MY sadness as it does theirs. I know that what we really need and should work for is systemic change in how we care for vulnerable people.  However I also know that the opportunity to buy new underwear, to pick out ones own winter coat, to eat at a fast food spot, to order a meal just the way you like it, these simple pleasures can make a whole year better.

Which is why I’m asking you to give to the CHS Holiday Gift Project this year.  Please help one of the 550 people living in CHS’s supportive housing services this holiday. Come to the event Next Monday. Bring either a gift card or a cash donation.

MONDAY DECEMBER 5th 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Shiloh Inn – Pittsburgh, 123 Shiloh Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15211
Now the fun part, What kind of gift cards?? Any kind! But remember that most of these individuals rely on access or public transit, so try to pick something easy to get to from Oakland/Downtown.  Also, you may think of a Subway gift card as boring, but it is a real treat for someone on a tiny fixed income. And things like new underwear and snacks can be a luxury too, so that kmart or giant eagle gift card is also a versatile option!
Have a question? Need a receipt for tax purposes? For right now your best bet is to either comment here or post on the facebook event page here.
And in case you need more motivation here are two of the residents who hope to have a happy holidays this year:

Pamela is a 67 year old woman who lives in a single room at Wood Street Commons. Pamela’s husband passed away several years ago leaving her to live on her own for the first time in her life. Soon after his death, she was overwhelmed with grief compounded by her increasingly perilous financial situation. Eventually she lost her home through foreclosure and became homeless.  Pamela has been living at WSC for several years now with her only support coming from staff and other residents.  She receives services in the building that enable her to live as independently as possible while managing her ongoing depression. The holiday times are difficult for Pamela as she is reminded of her losses and the life she no longer has.

Sam is a 28 year old male living at Wood Street Commons. Sam has difficulty maintaining housing and services due to his struggles with mental illness. Many of his difficulties are the result of experiencing extreme abuse and neglect throughout his traumatic childhood and adolescence. Sam receives services at WSC to help him stabilize his mental health ad acquire skills that he needs to live a fully independent adult life.  Due to the traumatic nature of his childhood, Sam has no family he can rely on to help him through the hard times. In spite of his difficulties, Sam is motivated to work and works a part time job. Unfortunately once Sam pays his rent and pays for meals, he hardly has enough money left to get back and forth to work and purchase personal hygiene products.


One Response to “Remembering Forgotten neighbors”

  1. Sheila March 26, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I really wish I found your blog early. This sounds like a wonderful opportunity to give back. You make a solid point about mental illness often being a coexisting factor w/homelessness and thus a great challenge. hope to remember for next year!

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