This week we are taking a closer look at a charity that’s located in one of the COVID19 epicenters of the world, New York City. Join us as Hannah Vanbiber from the Bowery Mission takes us on a journey on what homelessness looks like in NYC and how it has transformed since Covid19.
DANI: Introduce yourself, the charity, & what do you guys do.
HANNAH: I am Hannah Vanbiber, I am the senior manager of volunteer services for the Bowery Mission in New York City. We work with the homeless population or what we like to say, people experiencing homelessness because it's a temporary thing for most people. We offer services for individuals who are in crisis on the streets like food , medical care, clothing, showers, and basic care to survive through a day. We also offer long term programming with job readiness training, counseling, trauma recovery to help people moving out of homelessness into permanent housing, into a job to sustain a life beyond our doors. We have nine sights across Manhattan and the South Bronx, our permanent goal is to walk people through that long term journey. Right now we’re still doing all parts of that continuum of care but we are really focusing on the first piece which is survival. It's been very difficult in many ways , very rewarding especially as the leader of our volunteer services to see people coming in and filling the gap and willing to help even when things are kind of scary right now.
MIRANDA: How has things changed since Covid19, what are some adjustments?
HANNAH: Covid 19 task force biggest adjustment is meals. We used to have our guests go through a buffet line, talk to volunteers, sit at a round table. It was very community structured. We changed the packaging to to-go meals distributed through plexiglass. Although they can see and talk to each other our volunteers all wear masks. The whole process takes a lot longer, and we are seeing more people who need meals. We brought handwashing stations, we purchased portable restrooms outside the building and sanitize those every time someone goes in. We have partnered with a local group called Showers Of Blessings that have a local shower van. We are also using technology so our people can meet and tutor those who are trying to get jobs. We've adjusted a lot of our volunteering as remote volunteering which we want to carry on into the future. In addition to education campaigns for hygiene, we have these huge posters showing how to wash your hands, and we plan on keeping these resources. We've seen so much interest in volunteers doing zoom calls, and a lot of volunteers mentoring clients or tutoring them to get a GED or teaching workshops. We always do that on sight which we are not going to change but virtually really opens up the pool of people who can help remotely. We are excited to leverage that in the future!
DANI: What's the biggest myth about homelessness?
HANNAH: Profile of a homeless person, what we usually think of is probably inaccurate. We often think of homelessness as chronic which is lifelong which rarely is. Homelessness can affect every age, race, socioeconomic class, and it's caused by so many different factors. Affordable housing is the top one, job lost, substance abuse, past trauma, mental health issues, family issues all contribute to someone losing a home. It might be one rent check and you're out on the street and we always want to encourage people there is not much separating any of us from those coming through the doors of the bowery mission. (16:00) Most often homelessness is temporary, to use a clinical term it's not chronic it's acute. Most people just need a helping hand, a couple of things to get them back on their feet back into the job force.(16:23) A lot of people we serve have jobs they just can't afford rent. Population of working people who are experiencing homelessness which most of the public aren’t aware that exist. We really try to emphasize how complex an issue it is and how it can affect everyone and there is no profile of a homeless person but that it's ultimately something people can overcome. Sometimes it means having a couple of nights to gather yourself, a couple nights where you can sleep in safe space, and not keep one eye open cause you're out on the streets.
DANI: How can people get involved & partner with you guys?
HANNAH: The most flexible way to help is to donate financially and a easy way to do that is to go to bowery.org/donate , if you want to donate directly toward out covid 19 fund you can donate directly bowery.org/covid19 , that page has all type of updates on what we're doing and changing needs. It will also link to a page with what we need AND awareness , this isn't specific to the bowery mission we want to advocate for people who are experiencing homelesness with this shelter roder . Wherever you live, find those organizations that are advocating for the homeless and that are taking care of those who can't shelter in place. Anywhere you live you probably have homeless neighbors finding organizations near you that help, and if you're healthy volunteering that's incredibly important. Also reminding your politicians that this is a group of people that we need to advocate for for human beings and are worthy of dignity. We would love to have people support us in New York City but there is need everywhere.
DONATE - https://www.bowery.org/donate/
A big THANK YOU to Hannah Vanbiber from the Bowery Mission for taking us behind the scenes, and a big thanks to YOU for being part of our social impact journey!