Recently, we took part in an event at Holy Blossom where teens from Holy Blossom, CHAT and Beth Tzedec baked over 200 muffins for Out of the Cold.
During the event we got to hear from the co-chair of Out Of The Cold, Shari Wilson, who told us all about the amazing work they do, all the different ways they help the homeless people that come to the program and how sadly popular it is. We learned about the special bonds they make there, the beautiful atmosphere they have there every week with the musicians that come and perform voluntarily and the heated BINGO competitions that go on during the night.
Afterwards an incredible woman, Kathy, shared with us her experience of being homeless. She talked about the different challenges of being homeless such as the hunger, the disconnection from the family and of course in Toronto, the awful cold during the winter. It was very special and brave of her to open up to us and share all of her regrets fears and the scars that the time on the street left her.
This evening was very eye opening to all of us and a huge reminder how fortunate we are to have everything in our lives. It was so inspiring to hear how Kathy got back on her feet, back in touch with her family and now has her own house and job. It helped us look at homeless people in a very humane and nonjudgmental way. It made us think about how it’s not always a choice to be homeless, that sometimes no matter how hard you try to get out of this situation you don’t always have enough luck.
The whole evening was amazing and a great reminder to be grateful of what we have.
Unfortunately, the homelessness problem exists also in Israel. By the social authorities, nowadays there are thousands of homeless people in the country. Alike many other countries, the state of Israel labels as a homeless any person who is over 18 and sleeps either in the streets or in any other public property, including shelters.
While most of the challenges homeless people face in Israel and in other countries are similar; such as hunger, drug addiction, mental health and affordable housing. In Israel many of the homeless people are facing additional challenges which include inability to speak the native language (Hebrew) and a lack of family to provide support.
Homeless people in Israel are entitled to ask for the support of their regional ‘street residents committee’, which is obligated to help in the means of registering the person to a support program that includes a shelter to stay at (at the will of the asker), meals for the day and drug/alcohol addiction support group. Also, the committee has the authority to represent the person in front of the bank, health care institution and the interior ministry office.
Alongside the governmental authorities, there are many private-initialed institutions and organizations, just like ‘Out of the Cold’, who volunteer and find donations for homeless people. There are many of these shelters and their operators work 100% voluntarily.
Keeping in mind Kathy’s personal story, one of the major challenges she faced was not being able to rely on her family to help her in some of her most desperate times. When you think about some of the homeless people in Israel, they share the common difficult experience of being and feeling isolated from their family and society. Looking at homelessness in this way makes you realize how important programs such as Out of the Cold are. Not only because they offer food and shelter, rather because the sense of community, human connection and belonging they provide to their clients.
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