Earlier tonight I volunteered at a women’s homeless shelter. A group of other girls and I went to a local shelter in northern Chicago, to cook and serve dinner. While I have been involved in many volunteer opportunities I had yet to set foot in a homeless shelter. I will admit that one of these reasons was that I was afraid off what I might encounter. There are many stereotypes out there about the homeless; they are all drug addicts, they are criminals, most are mentally ill, or they are homeless because they are just too lazy to work. Some of these stereotypes have become so ingrained in our society that it greatly interferes with attempts to help those in need.
While I did have a lot of experiences growing up, in some ways I was still sheltered from some of the realities of the world. I occasionally encountered a homeless individual on that street asking for money, but I never really took much notice. Just went on about my day not even thinking about how difficult life must be for some individuals. I’m some what ashamed at how dismissive I have been to others in the world around me.
Needless to say I had a wonderful experience.
About ten of us arrived armed with bags of groceries ready to cook a feast of sloppy Joes, French fries, salad, and dessert.
Who doesn’t love as good old fashion sloppy Joe? They were always a favorite of mine!
While I was timid at first, I was greeted by a number of different smiling women, which immediately put me at ease. Back in the kitchen all of us went to work cooking, serving, and then cleaning, all while having a great time. We ended up making dinner for about 40 women, each one coming up to personally thank us for the meal.
While I only spent a small part of my day with these women, this experience gave me a new outlook on certain aspects of life. I definitely plan on volunteering at this center again in the future.