Moses’s Service Blog

This year I spent many nights volunteering at the men’s homeless shelter at my synagogue. Me duties were very limited. I basically had to unlock the beds, the pantry, log the mens’ names as they arrived, write down if they were running out of bread, canned tuna, or soap, and wait two hours for the overnight volunteer. They did the vast majority of the setting up by themselves, and could have done it all, but for technical the synagogue needed to always have at least one volunteer present.¬†Often while I waited one or two of them would come talk to me. I didn’t pry, but they often were glad to have someone to listen to them, and I learned a lot. I learned that most of them worked extremely hard, often with relatively high-paying jobs with terrible hours and no security. I learned that almost all of them had been launched into homelessness by some unaddressed physical or mental health problem. I don’t think they were representative of the homeless population of New York City; the shelter only has room for ten people per night and works closely with social work organizations that are extremely selective, trying to help the people they think have the best chance of getting back on their feet. Those organizations do very good work with very limited resources, and the synagogue helps out as much as it can, but this isn’t a sustainable or humane system. A real solution to this problem will come from local government and will use federal money, and will tackle health issues, unjust housing practices, and worker’s rights.

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