"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all of the people in the world haven't had the advantages that you've had." - The Great Gatsby
I’m reminded of these words when I come across someone judging somebody else. There are people living on the streets when it’s frigid outside, and we could easily be there too. However, instead of feeling compassion, too many of us push out our chests and say, “that could never happen to me.” Don’t be so sure — an injury at work, an insurance claim that goes uncovered, an illness, the loss of a job, or just a bad break – any one of us could face hardship in our lives and end up in a situation we thought we’d never be in.
Your family may never know the pain of being cold and hungry, but others are not as fortunate. In our community, there are people and families without shelter or housing. Let’s take a moment to soak that in. People, not so different than you and me, face blistering cold without protection. Give thanks for the little things we often take for granted: shoes, socks, blankets, hats, gloves, our family, a job, housing, or even the heat in your car.
That’s why I am honored to serve on the board of Feeding the Spirit (FTS), a partner of United Way. FTS provides a weekly gathering for all those in need, where they can receive a hot meal in a community of fellowship and caring. With the help of volunteers, we offer kinship and hope. Our team helps those in need secure temporary housing, avoid evictions, find transportation, and avoid many individual crisis situations.
United Way and FTS understand the fine line between living in a home and living on the streets.
Three years ago, United Way and FTS recognized an issue in our community – we were disappointed by Greensburg’s lack of emergency cold weather shelters. While FTS and others provide temporary immediate crisis placement in a hotel for homeless individuals, we can only offer a few nights' stay. But what happens afterward? As the homeless shelters are always filled with a waiting list, people were headed back out with nowhere to go in the freezing temperatures.
Picturing people in our community (or anywhere) being out in the elements without shelter, especially in the winter, is a terrible thought.
Soon after our initial conversations, United Way spearheaded the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter program in Westmoreland County, working with FTS and other community organizations. This marks its third year in operation, and to date, the shelter has provided nearly 700 nights of warm, safe shelter for people in need.
An idea, acted on, offered hope. We may never know the battles others are fighting, but we can always be kind, and together we can accomplish amazing things.
You can make a difference by helping people who are struggling to stay warm:
- Donate warm items, like coats, blankets or warm clothing to United Way or FTS. You can also call 2-1-1 and ask for a list of organizations who accept these types of donations.
- Volunteer your time. Local shelters and organizations need your help. Call United Way or FTS to see what opportunities are available.
- Spread the word. Help to raise awareness of the struggles people are facing in our community. Together we can spread more kindness and hope to those in need.