What’s in your cupboard? ……….

Martha's Table is a non-profit organization which does some truly wonderful work in our community and which I support throughout the year.  Yesterday they were one of the sponsors of a Pep Rally for Peace in the Streets held as part of the 5th annual Feed the Homeless Community Awareness Day.    Another sponsor was Sweet Mango Cafe – one of the manservant's favourite hangouts – which yesterday supplied a free meal to those in need who turned up during the afternoon.     

We missed the opening speakers but we did hear the co-owner of Sweet Mango Cafe speak on some of the programs available to assist the homeless: 


There are more than 2,100 homeless youths in DC and yesterday we watched as some of these youths performed songs they'd written.  Their words were very powerful – the violence they face on the streets and the helplessness that they feel at controlling their destiny.  Some sang of the family dysfunction that led to them living in shelters; the breakdown and loss of their family unit. 

There are about 17,800 homeless in Washington DC.  47% are classed as "chronically homeless" meaning they've been without a residential address for more than one year.

DC has the highest proportion of people in the US with the lowest income levels.  A worker earning minimum wage must work approximately 140 hours per week to be able to afford a 2-bedroom unit at this area's Fair Market rent (figures from National Low Income Housing Coalition).   20.3% of the single homeless are employed as are 26.5% of homeless adults in a family.

22.7% of all DC children under 18 live at, or below the poverty line

There are approximately 2,300 emergency shelter beds for single adults and 100 emergency shelter units for families in DC.  The wait for emergency family shelter is around 6 months!!

Homelessness is around all of us in whatever state or country we live in – and it is growing each day.  Most of us have things in our cupboards or wardrobes we are never going to use – things that we hang on to for reasons such as  "just in case".   Items that organizations like Martha's Table, Salvation Army,  Dress for Success etc, and Food Banks really need.  Next time you open a cupboard see if you can spy something that really does not need to be there…………

*  figures from The Community Partnership for Prevention of Homelessness.

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35 responses

  1. Even if you cupboard is bare…a little bit of help is generally going to go far!!! I always buy baby food when a food drive is coming up. A few jars is not very expensive, but feeding a baby all those special foods that they need, IS.

  2. I routinely take the surplus from my parents' shopping trips to Costco to the food bank near their house. My parents won't miss four cans of soup from the 12-pack they have sitting in their living room; and as Katiebell said, a little goes a long way at these places. I also feel terrific after dropping the food off. The volunteers are always so happy and appreciative, no matter how small the amount you give.

  3. When it comes to donating and helping those in need, you're preachin' to the choir, hun. You know that if I have five cans of food, half or more go to the food bank; if give away many more clothes, I won't have any to wear myself! My anti-clutter nazism is as much about hating clutter as it is helping others in need and it's very sad that anyone even needs to be encouraged to do it …

  4. Thank for sharing this. It kind of reminded me again how shocked I often am when I am coming to the US. Here homelessness is of course also a subject, just not to that degree. And not so apparent. The few one sees are usually gypsies – and honestly no one has really any compassion for them. And I could stop myself from trying those statistics. And I figured that actually I too would need to work at least a 100 hours if I wanted to be able to afford a 2 bedroom. Never really though of that. Only was always slightly peed that I couldn't.

  5. Wow…that is so sad. Homelessness isn't really an issue where I live, and it's easy to forget how hard many people have it. Sometimes I think the powers that be that run our country worry too much about helping everyone else (outside of the country) and kind of don't give a crap about the people in our own nation that need help. I understand that as an "evolved' nation we are expected to help others, but still….who's helping us?

  6. Great essay Emjay! I would really like to comment but I think it might give me away. Well, lets go forward…instead of what's in your cupboard, maybe the better question might be what's in your congress? Been reading, listening to all that talk about immigration…I hear tell that there's a powerful lot of people thinking that maybe the illegal immigrant sould be denied work. Some be saying there ought to be laws made so landlords can't rent to illegal immigrants (but they all seem to be saying "Mexican"). Emjay, can you imagine what's gonna happen to some 9 to 12 million PEOPLE who are denied work and who might not even have a place to sleep? I think its gonna get ugly.

  7. Thank you Katie – I am always amazed at the number of homeless just steps from the White House. Very sad in the a rich nation's capital. Other high value items are sanitary pads and tampons.

  8. I was really impressed with the young men I saw performing – they were really putting their hearts into their words and music. The population of DC (city) is only just over 600,000 so the percentage of homeless is quite depressing.

  9. Yes WB I actually thought of you and the post you did on the same subject as I was writing this. If we all just shared a bit of whatever we had the world would be a kinder place.

  10. Yes I remember the first time I wandered just a couple of blocks from the White House and the Capitol building (symbols of a rich democracy) and saw people begging. It seemed so inconsistent.

  11. There is an effort being made by DC Government to build "work force' housing. All new buildings must now have a certain percentage of units which would be affordable to teachers, nurses, policemen – people that are essential to a community but who find it difficult to be able to afford to live in the community where they work. It still does not extend to minimum wage earners though…..

  12. The young men were so passionate – their stories were really moving. I was sorry not to see any young ladies perform – the rally was geared more towards young men and the gang violence in our streets but young girls are affected by that also.

  13. Hi Raymond – your scenario would not only be ugly but incredibly depressing and distressing. I really hope it does not come to that. I think a society where one has to carry "papers" around to prove that they have a right to be there could become a scary one.

  14. Thank you Deborah – women's shelters are wonderful places to give to. They are always in need of things like underwear (including good condition used bras) and unwanted mobile phones.

  15. There's a food bank in Arlington, MA, where I live. Arlington is a pretty comfortable middle-class community, but the need is everywhere. I'm a frequent contributor.

  16. "I think a society where one has to carry "papers" around to prove that they have a right to be there could become a scary one." – I could not disagree more. A nation has sovereign right to document tts foreign residents. A nation that sacrifices this right becomes a nation abused, taken advantage of, disrespected and worse. When I lived abroad, I was required to carry a card the size of a driver's license. Did I have it on me every moment I was out in public in my 11 years? No. But then I wasn't living there illegally either, neither was I committing crimes. There is nothing scary about requiring documentation. What is scary is what happens when a country doesn't.

  17. Sorry, but on this one I go with Emjay's point. Except I don't think we are talking about the documentation as per Waterbaby. I think there is a very real possibly of implanted computer chips. They've got the tech for it, they do it to animals every day. And the price is coming down. Homeland Sec has been working on federal identification for over nine years…what are they waiting for? Is it that hard to create paper ID (waterbaby's documentation). I think they're working on something ugly.

  18. Gulp, and what's scary is those chips are connected to databases that identify the chip. It very easy for those who have access to update a database, and even the best of automated processes require manual intervention to correct data.

  19. I loved this post. I wish there were more events like this. It really strenghtens the community and brings good people together.
    Have you read Nickeled and Dimed? I only read a bit of it, but seriously, the Living Wage campaign was such a good idea. What a load of crap that the rate of pay hasn't even remotely followed the rate of inflation.

  20. Hi Margy – yes the need is every where. It's a shame they won't always take home-made food – I'm sure a lot of people would enjoy those meals you make!

  21. Thank you Emmi. Nickel and Dimed sounds interesting – I will add that to my list of books to borrow from the library. Our library has been closed for quite some time now as they renovate it – I'm really looking forward to it reopening as my list is getting long!

  22. So often it's mind-numbing, mindless bureaucracy that keeps hard working dedicated people down. There are people who want a better life and are very willing to work very hard for it but the obstacles they face are incredible, and most of the time they have no voice.

  23. Children living in shelters have few possessions –if any– including toys. Homeless parents have more urgent demands on what little money they have, such as food and clothing. So often these children have nothing to play with and little to occupy their time. You can donate toys, books, and games to family shelters to distribute to homeless children. For Christmas or what ever.

  24. That's so true Rima. There are a number of charities that specialize in "Wish Trees" around Christmas time but we probably don't give much thought to that at other times during the year.

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