Thoughts from an east bay angels volunteer
Written by Sally Pras, East Bay Angels Volunteer A smile went a long way. A ‘hello’ went even further.
It said, 'I see, recognize and value you as a human being'.
Why didn't I do this sooner? I have seen 'these people' from afar living in these conditions, but had always believed they were being 'taken care of' in one way or another. After all, we are the richest country in the world. However, the reality is that 'these people' may as well be living in the slums of a 3rd world country. They are our society's 'Los Olivdados' or The Forgotten Ones. Ever since I spent an afternoon with Veronica from the East Bay Angels visiting their encampments, they are the ones I cannot forget.
I wanted to walk through the encampments that I always drove past. What I saw was humans that are being neglected, craving interaction with 'society'. I received friendly hellos, smiles and even a hug from a young man who was so appreciative that we were there, but yet apologized for not having the cleanest of clothes. There was the person who asked what day of the week it was, the young couple, the families and so many others... These are the people that have been on my mind. I was so humbled by this experience.
I saw them as someone's son, daughter, brother, sister....as human beings who deserve better! Living without proper shelter, no clean running water available to drink from, or bathe with, no restroom facilities and no electricity; garbage piling up around their 'living quarters' because there is no where else to place it - they are outcasts.
They are in survival mode. What they must endure....sleepless nights since they need to protect themselves and what little they have. Trying to stay warm in the cold and dry in the rain. The anxiety and constant stress to survive will eventually send the sane, down a path towards mental illness. They need our help!
They didn’t intentionally put themselves in the situation they are in. They fell through the cracks of society and became ‘invisible’. They are human beings and need our voices and actions!
Their fragile community is in the hands of a society that does not want to deal with the root cause of the homelessness epidemic, but rather get rid of them.
I have seen how volunteers can make a difference when the system is failing them. We shouldn't expect positive changes from the top-down, but rather from the community demanding action.