I honestly did not know what to fully expect before I started working as a graduate student intern at HRCC. I knew I would be interacting with the homeless population for the majority of the mornings, by handing out food, making sure their needs are met, and simply engaging in conversations about what they have gone through in the past. In the four short months that I have worked at HRCC, I have learned far more than what I thought I ever would. Every person has a background, every person has a story.
I suppose you could say there are different levels when it comes to homelessness. Some individuals are in special housing due to suffering from a particular mental or physical disability, others are living in homeless shelters, and quite a few are living day-to-day on the streets in the surrounding areas of Hoboken. Many stories that I have heard can be difficult to digest, while other stories are exceptionally inspirational; but many of these stories stem from a common theme—gratitude.
From my own personal experience with the homeless population, I would say that the individuals who are currently living on the streets, in public parks, and in the bus terminals at night display the greatest amount of gratitude towards the simplest things in life. These specific people have seen and gone through very traumatic and troubling times, therefore, when they come to the Lunch Time Ministry to warm up, grab a bite to eat, and spend time in a safe vicinity, they are very thankful for the services we provide. I have had particular individuals tell me that they are especially thankful for our staff being nonjudgmental and actually enjoy interacting with the guests. I have also heard the visitors say “God has blessed me today” after receiving an article of clothing from donations or after being handed a cup of soup. Mornings at the Lunch Time Ministry is a time where the homeless can escape their struggles and hardships they endure on the streets. It can also be incredibly lonely living on the streets, so engaging in conversations with the homeless is another key component I accomplish. This can provide them with a sense of self pride, and confidence. The majority of the time they are passed by people who give them stares, make snide remarks, and wish they would be removed from the area. It is important to note that these homeless individuals did not choose this particular lifestyle; most likely something occurred in their life that they could not manage, and it eventually spiraled out of control. It is our responsibility to help the homeless get their feet back on the ground by showing respect with how we communicate and interact with this fragile population. You may think you are not making a huge difference by talking with them for a few minutes or simply just flashing a smile their way, but these simple gestures allow them to enjoy their tough life a little more each day.