What are your initial thoughts and feelings when thinking of this word? Do you feel anxious or uneasy? Do you fear for your safety? Do you feel pity or sad? Do you think of drug addicts or criminals?
The word homeless has a heavy stigma attached to it. These individuals often overlooked and intentionally ignored because of such a stigma. Besides the occasional drive by with a meal or a few dollars, the homeless rarely receive help from others.
There are some students who refuse to let a stigma keep them from seeing others as people. Bryce, Jasper, Tanner, and Scott are some of the students who saw the need and felt the call to help.
Bryce Coleman has taken the homelessness project head on. With the help of his friends Jasper, Tanner, and Scott, who were also working on homelessness projects of their own, and the McKay Center, they were able to coordinate their efforts to be more productive and efficient in helping the homeless. During the current semester, Bryce has been working with the homeless every Saturday. He works with organizations such as ‘Give & Take’ to find lightly used clothes and other products the people need.
“When we talk to the homeless we generally ask them things that they want/feel they need. Here is a list of some of the most frequently requested items: Tarps, camping gear (specifically sleeping bags and pads, cots, flashlights, tents etc.), jackets, female care supplies, over the counter medicines, hygiene items (especially deodorant), blankets, dog food.”
Working with the homeless has been a life-changing experience for Bryce. Being able to form relationships and bonds with others has been a huge blessing for him.
When asked why he devotes so much of his time to helping the homeless, Bryce replied very humbly saying: “I feel like my role is to connect the homeless people to the people with resources. I try and find and get to know the homeless, after meeting them and getting to know them, you realize they are just people too.”
According to a statewide report, in 2017 there were about 7,220 homeless individuals across the islands of which 4,959 were found on Oahu. With such numbers, the homelessness project can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be… The majority of homeless are here on our island; within our community. If we can see the homeless as people rather than a problem, then helping them seems like a no-brainer. They are our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters. If we see them as family, then we will not hesitate to help.
“Try and understand who the homeless people are and their needs, so you can see them as normal people instead of as ‘Homeless.’ They are generally nice people who just have different challenges than you do. Lots of them suffer from PTSD and aren't able to function well in a job setting. Some of them have been homeless since childhood. Lots of them don't have the skills to manage their money even when they do get money. These are all things that can be helped. I think that many of them are able to improve their circumstances just from having someone believe in them and encourage them to change.”
Bryce sees college students as the perfect people to help the homeless and hopes more will join him. College students are approachable and less intimidating than others. “I think if we could get students to form positive relationships with the homeless we could start influencing them to take steps to help themselves. We could influence them for good.”
Bryce posts regularly on the Facebook group, ‘Everyone Is Ohana’, about times for service projects, items they are in need of, and what others can do to help. He encourages all to join.
“Whenever helping the homeless gets inconvenient/hard, [I think of] King Benjamin’s talk about helping the homeless [in] Mosiah chapter 4:
We have been called to help and serve others. There is always something that can be done. We can always do more to help others. When we see others as people, we remember we are all brothers and sisters; Everyone is Ohana.
Written by Blake Julander