Week 12, Day 5: Michael Garcia at Hospitality Hub

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Today was a bit different than the other days thus far on my volunteer odyssey. My volunteer experience today brought me to the Hospitality Hub, located downtown on 2nd Street. The Hospitality Hub is a resource center which offers a variety of services for the homeless, ranging from the simple, like offering refreshments such as coffee and access to bathrooms, to other services like mental health counseling and access to lockers, phones, computers, a mailing address, and identification services. The mission of the Hospitality Hub is to provide the resources people need most to help them make their way out of homelessness. It strikes me that most of these resources are things many people take for granted, yet without which it would be nearly impossible to accomplish things like getting a job or finding a place to live.

My contribution to the Hospitality Hub was to assemble some donation bags and drop them off so that they could then be redistributed to the clients of the Hospitality Hub. Each bag contained snacks as well as items for maintaining personal hygiene. I assembled the bags at home, putting a razor blade, toothbrush and some beef jerky into individual sandwich bags.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Donation bags for the Hospitality Hub assembled by Michael Garcia.

Donation bags for the Hospitality Hub assembled by Michael Garcia.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

Michael Garcia assembling donation bags for the Hospitality Hub.

 

When I arrived at the Hub to drop off the bags, the place was very busy! I spoke for just a few minutes with Kelcey, the Associate Director of the Hospitality Hub about what they do there. Although my visit to the Hospitality Hub was brief, it made an impression on me. There are clearly many people out there who need help and are willing to put the effort into improving their lives. It is a good thing that there are organizations like Hospitality Hub, The Bridge, the Green Machine, SRVS, and St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen to help such individuals. Such organizations would not exist without the hard work of dedicated staff and volunteers. I’m glad I live in a world where there are many who sacrifice their time for these organizations, and I hope my humble blog posts encourage others to go out there and volunteer.

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job as an historical consultant, researcher or educator. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

Cheers,
Michael

My profile pages:
LinkedIn
Academia.edu

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Week 11, Day 3: Ann-Katherine at Hospitality Hub

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Today on my Volunteer Odyssey, Julie and I had the opportunity to spend some time with the wonderful volunteers and guests of the Hospitality Hub.  I’ve seen the agency’s name posted around my church before, but I never knew their mission.  Hospitality Hub is literally a “hub” for homeless to go for assistance in meeting their needs.  New homeless guests meet with a volunteer counselor to receive an intake assessment, help identify needs, and discuss possible solutions in the Memphis community.  Each guest has a certain day of the week they can return to speak with their counselor, but they can return other days to use the phone or computers.  The Hub offers assistance for 90 days, with the goal that each individual will be off the streets and working by the time the 90 days are up.

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Julie and I folding brochures for all the new guests

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With Mike, one of the volunteer counselors

Julie and I were able to sit in on a few assessments and offer any additional suggestions and advice we had to share.  Although I definitely wasn’t the expert when it came to assisting the guests, I really enjoyed seeing their process unfold and learning about job and housing options in the community.  You can tell the volunteers truly care about the welfare of each person they meet.  One man I met, Charles, has had a difficult time finding a job since he has a felony on his record from 10 years ago.  The Hub is aware of most of the opportunities in Memphis that hire individuals with felony charges.  It’s unfortunate that an incident so long ago can impact a person’s ability to be hired, but it’s a struggle that many homeless have experienced.  Organizations like the Hub are so instrumental in connecting these individuals with employers, and they can identify options in a fraction of the time it would take each person to search and apply until someone says “you’re hired.” Luckily for Charles, he had an interview later today for a temporary position that he hoped would give him a chance.

Listening to Charles tell his story.

Having a social work background, it really excites me to see an outreach agency making such impactful changes for the Memphis community.  It pains me to see so many people on the streets, and there are some who just need a little guidance to get their feet back on the ground.  For someone to sit down with them and spend a little time assessing their situation and discussing options, means the world to them.  It warmed my heart to see how confident Charles felt about his interview today after his assessment.  He knew that even if he was not offered the position, Hospitality Hub was committed to finding him another option.

It was another great day with Volunteer Odyssey.  I’m loving every opportunity to expand my Memphis resource directory!

What I learned about myself today: I can really help someone in need by just sharing my knowledge with them.  I take for granted knowing how to set up an email account or create a resume.  Although they seem like such simple tasks to me, sharing that knowledge can make a world of difference for someone who was never taught it.

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With the wonderful volunteers and staff at the Hub

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Week 10, Day 6: Rae-Anne Pitts at Hospitality Hub

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On Saturday, I worked on a project for Hospitality Hub. Hospitality Hub is a service for homeless people that works to connect them to resources needed to transition out of homelessness. The Downtown Churches Association, of Memphis, opened hospitality Hub in 2007. The desire of DCS was to create a central location for resources and information for the homeless. What makes Hospitality Hub different from other homeless services is that it operates as a central entry point to a network of services around the city.

Before receiving any services from Hospitality Hub each new guest must go through an intake interview. Guests can use this service for up to 90 days. Hospitality Hub provides access to mail, telephones, computers, and assistance acquiring documents, such as: birth certificates and personal identification. Hospitality Hub also works to connect the homeless with shelters, counseling, access to clergy, and MATA transportation passes. Hospitality Hub in addition to these services holds a program called “The Breakfast Club” to aid those dealing with alcohol, and drug addiction. All of these services are provided free of change and work to meet the immediate and short-term needs of the guests of Hospitality Hub; while working to connect each guest with the resources needed. The organization will also make referrals to other programs that could aid in meeting the guest’s long-term goals.

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My part in helping with Hospitality Hub this week was to make bags of essential items to be handed out to the guests. Included in the bags were: a toothbrush, a razor, and a granola bar. I packaged all of the items into a resealable plastic bag to make for easy access. I made these bags at home with my husband and then took them to Hospitality Hub the next week to donate them.

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Hospitality Hub is a fascinating place that functions like a business-center for the homeless. Hospitality Hub believes that by the end the 90-day time period the guests should be able to make significant progress on their journey from homelessness.

 

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in public policy, non-profit administration, or social science research. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or raeannepitts@gmail.com

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Week 9, Day 1: Ellen at Hospitality Hub

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Today was an intense start of my odyssey.  I went to the Hospitality Hub, a place where those without shelter can come to receive assistance. What I learned is how little I know about homelessness. When I thought of a homeless person, the image of a man with a long beard wearing layers of clothes pushing a grocery cart which carried the accumulation of his worldly possessions is what came to mind. Not to say that this image isn’t sometimes an accurate depiction of endemic homelessness, but this is not what I witnessed today. Today I saw people who mostly looked like any other person I might run into in Memphis and would never guess they were homeless. I witnessed many people who cared for their personal appearance and hygiene as best as they could and wanted out of the circumstances they were in. It is for them that Hospitality Hub exists.

With Kelcey in front of the volunteer information board.

With Kelcey in front of the volunteer information board.

Upon my arrival, I met director Kelcey Johnson, a man who has dedicated his life to help people get out of homelessness. He explained to me how the Hospitality Hub operates and provided a tour of the facility. With only a staff of six and a host of volunteers, they help hundreds of people on their path out of homelessness by connecting them with the appropriate resources, whether it be obtaining a Social Security Number, identification, an address, a telephone, a locker for storage, job opportunities and/or professional development, bus vouchers, how to locate a food pantry, temporary housing, access to rehabilitation, counseling, etc… It truly is a hub of resources.

When the doors open at 9:30 AM the staff and volunteers are prepared to do intake with those soliciting their services to determine which resources are best suited to assist them. I was fortunate to get to observe this process with veteran volunteer, Betsy, who has been volunteering with the Hub for seven years. She is a great representation of Hospitality Hub’s commitment to treat everyone with dignity and respect. The women that Betsy met with today appeared to be in desperate situations. One was in need of identification and was anxious to get it ASAP, while the other suffered from uncontrolled diabetes and had previously been diagnosed with a mental illness. It was difficult to observe because it made me wonder if it really is possible for her to no longer be homeless. I learned shelters provide temporary free housing for a limited amount of time, and she only had two weeks left where she was staying. Their hours are strict and no food is allowed to be brought on the premise. Due to her diabetes, she could not eat some of the food the shelter served. Her only other option was to skip a meal which she had done that morning. While Betsy had stepped out to acquire more information for her, she asked me where she could get a meal during that time of day. I   found the schedule of soup kitchens in Memphis, and we were able to locate a place where she could get lunch. I hope it was diabetic friendly.

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Betsy and Kelcey at the intake desk

After observing, I started to sense a growing anxiety in me as I imagined a day in her or anyone else’s shoes who was there for help.  I could overhear the chatter from other volunteers doing intake and caught pockets of conversations:

“I don’t have a way to get around to seek out job applications….”

“I only have one more night left at the shelter…”

“I have scoliosis…I don’t know where to go for help…” 

But I witnessed how calm and collected Betsy and Kelcey were, and my heartbeat returned to its normal rate. It is not uncommon for the staff to come across a variety complicated situations, yet they know there is a solution. In the case of this particular woman with diabetes and a mental health diagnosis, she was enrolled in a program designed specifically to help people who are in such circumstances. She will get assistance in applying for disability, obtaining medical attention, mental health services and   locating a job. The Hub won’t do it for her, but they will walk alongside and support her with the tools she needs to regain a home of her own.

I asked Kelcey if there were any generalizations in the causes of the homelessness in the cases they encounter. He said every case is different; every case is unique. I am incredibly grateful for the staff and volunteers of the Hospitality Hub who have taken on a mountainous challenge to address every  case and provide people with the resources and assistance they need to acquire their own housing and regain dignity. I highly recommend it as a long-term volunteer placement for anyone with availability during weekday mornings. It is a way to help people turn their lives around and offer a hand-up to those who have been knocked down—often very hard. Just one morning there made me much more aware of the reality of homelessness and that a little help goes a long way.

 

El resumen en español:

Hoy fue un inicio muy intenso en mi odisea porque yo fui al Hospitality Hub donde las personas desamparadas  pueden ir para encontrar recursos que les ayuden a salir de esa situación tan difícil. El director, Kelcey Johnson, me enseñ­ó las instalaciones y me dio una explicación de todo lo que hacen.  El Hospitality Hub provee recursos a las personas sin hogar, como un lugar para guardar sus cosas, una dirección donde puedan recibir correos, teléfonos, acceso a computadoras, ayuda para encontrar trabajos, obtener identificaciones, lugares donde puedan recibir atención médica, ayuda para personas que tienen enfermedades mentales, etc… Es realmente una central de cualquier información que uno pudiera necesitar para salir del desamparo.

Hoy observé el proceso de como reciben a los clientes y les dan sus próximos pasos para obtener los servicios necesarios para ayudarles.  Yo vi este proceso con una voluntaria que se llama Betsy quien tiene siete años de experiencia de servir en el Hospitality Hub. Había dos mujeres con situaciones desesperadas. Es difícil para mí entender cómo es que van a salir de sus situaciones tan complicadas. Me dio tanto pesar pero vi la tranquilidad de Betsy y Kelcey y eso me calmo. Ellos tienen bastante experiencia de realizar este trabajo y saben que aunque sea muy difícil, hay soluciones para la gente sin hogar.

Aprendí hoy que las personas desamparadas no necesariamente aparentan serlo. Parecen como cualquier persona que yo pudiera encontrar en Memphis y la vida les ha dado un golpe muy fuerte. Un apoyito es un montón de ayuda para ellos. Súper recomendada  forma de pasar sus mañanas entre lunes y viernes si tiene ganas de hacer su ciudad un lugar mejor!

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