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National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is recognized throughout the country each year during the week right before Thanksgiving. During this week many groups and organizations hold events to assist in bringing about awareness to this very real issue within many communities across the country. These events often include organized food drives, collecting warm clothing, volunteering in shelters and food distribution centers and other efforts to assist in alleviating the stress of being without adequate food and shelter. The Macon County Continuum of Care (CoC) is hosting several events, which include "Box City", showing of the documentary "Homestretch", Veterans Stand Down, an art exhibit and much more that you can find on the Dove, Inc. website. This week helps shed a heavy light on the ugliness of these issues. Unfortunately when the week has ended and we are rushing around trying to prepare ourselves for the hustle and bustle of spending our Thanksgiving with family and turkeys, the reality is that too many are still without housing and food in this community. Families are still scrambling to find appropriate and safe shelter before the bitter cold sweeps in. The elderly are still faced with choosing between medication and dinner. Yes, this is awful but even more devastating than the THOUGHT of someone being in such situations is BEING that someone in such situations. Often times, we think there has to be someone else who is going to step up to the plate to do the heavy lifting in the lean times. And, I must say in Macon County we are blessed to have great collaboration amongst community leaders, advocates and volunteers. However, we have cracks to fill.



I have heard more times than I care to acknowledge, the term "these/those people". I believe it is that disconnect that allows us to "give" and then forget until the next big "giving" event. People are facing these issues year round, not just during the coldest months of the year or during the week before Thanksgiving. Families are struggling to make a decent living to support their households year round and frequently it is not due to their lack of effort. Outside influences such as layoffs, fires, unforeseen health issues and the like can kick off a battle with hunger and homelessness that those of us who haven’t faced such situations, could never truly conceive. And if we don’t personal know "these/those people" then we may not see the struggle or we do see it and misinterpret it. These misinterpretation are by no means malicious but nevertheless they are there and they cause us to stand inactive when we are not directly called to act. "These/Those people" are not our brothers, daughters, parents or neighbors thereby making it easier to walk by without a second glance.



Today, I challenge you to think about the most difficult situation that you have ever had to face in your lifetime; stress on the job, financial instability, health issues or any such thing. Now, imagine going home at the end of the day, taking your shoes off, climbing into a hot bath/shower, eating your favorite dinner and watching your favorite reality show as you drift off, completely leaving the stress behind and waking refreshed ready to take on the problem in the new daylight. Let’s turn the tables, now imagine instead that you have to curl up in the back seat of your car or in a tent behind an abandoned building and you are awakened every few minutes by strange noises that you can’t ignore because to do so puts your safety in jeopardy. Imagine finally crawling out of your makeshift shelter at the crack of dawn and going to the corner gas station to freshen up before going out and facing a day of the same stressors from which you were not able to temporarily escape during the night. Imagine living this life for weeks or months or years. Imagine your son or father or sister living this life. I challenge you to imagine your child asking you what’s for dinner tonight and you not being able to answer because there is nothing for dinner tonight. I challenge you to imagine trying to hold back tears and choking down that lump in your throat when your grandchild is relying on you to provide his basic needs and because they cut your hours at work you can’t even keep him warm at night. I challenge you to contact me and find out how you can assist the Macon County Continuum of Care in filling these cracks and ending hunger and homelessness in our community.



Darsonya Switzer

Homeward Bound Program Director

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