Every time an errand takes me into the city center, I encounter those who society has forgotten. I encounter them in their makeshift dining rooms, traveling bedrooms, and public sitting rooms. I see them as I disembark from my train car to walk up to their steps and into their bustling backyard. Life has not been kind to these weathered citizens. They find the treasure hidden in the cracks of downtown Philadelphia, meanwhile, we take for granted the supposed trash of our privileged lives. They walk up and down the dangerous hallways that we drive through, asking for a contribution from their guests so that they may be there to greet you tomorrow. As the city came to a standstill, they continued to roam, no protection from the elements, both viral and scorching.

“…the gloom of the tunnels that slice through City Hall, it’s a tale of a different city…sad eyes beseeching passing strangers, silently soliciting donations for a charity of one.”

The Opioid Crisis Is Worsening Homelessness in Philly. Solving the Problem Is a Matter of Survival

As the need for aid increased and the need for personal contact decreased, I looked within myself to find a purpose. The natural world continued whilst the “civilized world” halted, and I realized Mother Nature had only created us as a small part in the vast chain of Earth. The question I uncovered was “What am I doing?” I realized I am in fact privileged to have a home to sequester myself in. I am privileged to know that there is food either in the refrigerator, the cabinet, or the socially distanced supermarket I would be accepted in.

Source Credit: Public Domain

I had helped those who are homeless in the past. Creating fully bagged lunches of a sandwich, an apple, pretzels, and a small water bottle, my mother and I would pass them out to every person who suffered that we came across. Each bag had a note of inspiration and encouragement, an attempt to provide hope. But food is only one facet that plagues this community. Drug addiction and mental illness run rampant, but oftentimes off-the-cuff remarks of “Just get a job” and “They’re too lazy or a disappointment to the family” ignores the human behind the homeless.

Source Credit: Public Domain

As an individual, I feel as though I have no power. I can’t go down the tunnels and roads of Kensington,” the land of milk and honey for those chasing the warm narcotic glow of opiates… an open-air drug market, and it’s the only place you can walk down the street and not have any problems with cops” to clear out the substance that hinders so many like April. April is a 27-year-old woman who experiences homelessness. She couch-surfed for two years in her friend and family homes. Her mother died and her father is a recovering alcoholic. She seems to have worn out her sister’s patience concerning her frequent and unsuccessful rehab stays. Now, she “sleeps in front of Macy’s. She’s afraid to sleep in shelters and feels safer in Center City than in Kensington, though she rides the El there every morning to get clean needles.” I can’t help Kenny, a man with Love and Hate tattooed on his knuckles “‘Because that’s what the world is made of,’ he says.”

“The worst thing Kenny’s seen while living on the street? ‘Murder! Murder, stabbings, shootings — I seen it all,’ he says. ‘Over $5, I saw someone get stabbed the other day. I’ve seen people get jumped by like 10 people just for being a couple dollars short when trying to buy. I’ve seen people sitting peacefully on the sidewalk and people come by and kick their cup — ‘Get a fucking job, bum!’ — kicking people, kicking signs, kicking cups. It’s the younger generation. They are literally ruining everything. Fighting in the subway — I’m telling you, it’s not like when I was a kid.'”

The Opioid Crisis Is Worsening Homelessness in Philly. Solving the Problem Is a Matter of Survival

According to the Philadelphia Housing Authority, in February of 2020, over 59,000 names sat on the waiting list for affordable and 1,000 people a night sleeping in the streets. The populations are most dense in Kensington and Center City. “Kensington has the drugs and Center City has the panhandling profits.” As individuals, our voices in political elections matter. Asking our representatives in forums what they plan to do to solve and aid those who are homeless. We aren’t helpless, nor are we powerless. One thing to remember is that change is an oak tree. A tiny seed must be planted and tended in order to grow into a mighty oak that will shade and comfort those who seek its cool shadows.

Source Credit: Lenora Thomas

The question you may be asking yourself is…“What can I do?” “How does this pertain to me?” I’m glad you asked. This global pandemic has limited our choices, but there are options to help as unlicensed professionals. You can volunteer to package food to be distributed with Philabundance. The Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services provides a full page of partners where you can either volunteer in person or donate monetarily to help and serve in some way, shape, or form. That meal provided for a person may be the hope they need for a new day. It may provide the strength to persevere. Please follow the links below to find different ways to volunteer and plant a seed today.

Some Links to Follow:



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