The Power of Giving Back

by DavalosMcCormack on February 25, 2010

Living in San Francisco, no matter how rich your neighborhood or how well off you are,  you are never far away from regular contact with those less fortunate than you. Just walking down the street on any given day you are likely to come across a homeless person. Sometimes they are sitting on the sidewalk or standing there asking for money. Sometimes they are just passed out on the sidewalk. They are a part of our daily experience.

That can be a good thing in that you can never forget they are here. But it can also be bad in that the daily experience hardens you, you stop seeing them as people and start considering them obstacles to be avoided, or maneuvered around on your way to work or Starbucks. And the longer you live in the City the easier it is to get used to them, and get used to avoiding making eye contact or thinking about what you can do to help them.

Project Homeless Connect (PHC) helps you change that, helps change the way you see them, helps change the way you think about them. More importantly, it helps change you. Once you have volunteered at PHC you can never see people who are homeless the same way, ever again.

PHC is such a simple idea. Instead of having people who are homeless go to several different buildings dotted across town and battle different bureaucracies to get the services they need, simply house everything in one building so they can get everything in one day. Simple in theory, amazingly complex in reality. But Project Homeless Connect does it all the time.  I won’t go into the details, you can find them at the PHC website… but what I can tell you about is what it’s like to volunteer.

Or rather, not me, but Marco Roberts. I don’t know Marco – though his wife and I work at the same hospital – but he volunteers for PHC every year and says while he knows his work helps the homeless, he thinks he gets far more out of it than they do. He finds it inspirational, uplifting, and completely rewarding. That’s why he keeps coming back

That’s why everyone who is part of it keeps coming back. As another regular volunteer told me, she said when people first come here they are a little apprehensive, even scared, they’ve never really met or talked to homeless people before and don’t know what to expect. But when they leave they have that “PHC goofy grin” because they know that at least for one day, for a few people, they have made a difference.

I am fortunate. I’ve been working with PHC for three years now. I love feeling that goofy grin. And it’s true. Once you have felt the power of helping a person less fortunate than you, you can never look at someone who is homeless the same way ever again.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: