All it takes is one conversation with one unhoused person to change the ugly perceptions about homeless people. ~ Adam Conover, TV Host and SELAH Volunteer
Everywhere you look, homelessness is getting worse. This especially holds true in cities like Los Angeles where homelessness continues to skyrocket. Homeless encampments are everywhere, and it’s clear that governments and nonprofits are overwhelmed.
With the coronavirus pandemic threatening mass evictions, the crisis seems daunting. People want to help, but they don’t know what to do.
SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition is a group of normal folks that decided to take tangible actions to help their homeless neighbors. What started as just giving out 25 food boxes a week has grown into an organization that’s helping people with basic needs like food and water, and connecting them with resources.
“On engagement, we bring food, water, hygiene tips to folks who are unhoused. We ask if they are feeling well. We say hello, try to learn folks’ name, build relationships – that’s the long-game,” Adam Conover said.
This type of engagement can be a lifeline, especially during COVID-19. For example, take Conover’s recent experience with a woman who was in distress, but not obviously homeless. She had been evicted from her home 5 days prior, left with no possessions, and no direction or resources. “She was sleeping in the clothes she had been evicted in,” he said. By reaching out to her, SELAH was able to connect her with needed resources.
But, how many people are in this same situation across the country with nowhere to turn?
Our communities need to recognize when a person is in distress, volunteer to engage with them, learn about them and connect them with the right resources. It’s as simple as asking “Do you need anything?”
“I felt that barrier, I felt like I couldn’t speak to those folks, I didn’t know what to do,” he continued. “And I saw SELAH on social media: ‘Hey we go out into the community, we hand out bottled water and we say Hi, and we talk to folks in our community.’ I wanted to do that.”
Nicole Arbusto, SELAH’s Co-founder, noted, these are “our neighbors who find themselves with no place to live. Once you see them as your neighbors who have fallen on hard times, how could you not want to help them in some way?”
Partnering with Silverlake Community Church, SELAH has also become a food distribution program. They started out with 25 boxes per week; they’re now up to 100 boxes.
“A lot of these people need help; what I’ve experienced since I’ve come to this area, they are not getting the help they need. We can’t just keep pushing those people to some other side of the city,” Pastor Kyle of Silverlake Community Church shared.
Do you want to help your homeless neighbors? SELAH Co-founder Cat Kim said, “Get to know what local organizations are in your area. Then you can volunteer with them. Advocate through policy. Donate. Make your community a better place for everyone.”
“Who better to help neighbors than other neighbors?” added SELAH Co-founder Dorit Dowler-Guerrero.
SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition
Never Thought He’d Be Homeless in Hollywood
Invisible Stories is a mini-doc series that goes beyond the rhetoric, statistics, political debates, and limitations of social services to examine poverty in America via a medium that audiences of all ages understand, and can’t ignore.
Watch more Invisible Stories mini-documentaries on homelessness
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Executive producer: Mark Horvath
Producer/editor/cinematographer: Alex Gasaway
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About Invisible People
We imagine a world where everyone has a place to call home. Each day, we work to fight homelessness by giving it a face while educating individuals about the systemic issues that contribute to its existence. Through storytelling, education, news, and activism, we are changing the narrative on homelessness.