The Advocate

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“Back in 2017, I was having multiple anaphylactic reactions at my previous job. After my employer refused to make accommodations for my food allergy, I was hired at the Solutions Center. My food allergy is the reason I have medical bills like crazy. It was difficult not being able to find work for so long. I’ve realized that nothing is ever guaranteed. I was making lots of money at my last job, but I was unhappy there. As a Crisis Advocate, I enjoy spending time with the clients. They always seem to make me laugh, even when I am blue. And it’s nice to be able to laugh and feel like you are also helping them in return. I think the biggest misconception about homeless people is that they are lazy. So many people fall through the cracks or don’t know the available resources to help keep afloat. Many of us are one paycheck away from being homeless. If I wasn’t caretaking my aunt’s home during this time, I would’ve been homeless myself.”

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“I come from a long line of people that do good for others - being advocates. My great grandparents during the Great Depression would always offer food to the homeless, even when they didn’t have a lot themselves. They never turned anyone away and always had something to share. My grandfather was a physical education teacher and basketball coach in the time of segregation. There was one black player on their team. When the bus stopped at a diner to get some food after a traveling game, the staff told him that they wouldn’t serve “his type” there. My grandfather told the staff and the team that if they wouldn’t serve everyone, they weren’t spending any money there and packed up the bus and rolled on. Over the years, my grandparents took several people into their homes. Mostly teenagers. These kids were in abusive situations at home and needed to leave but had nowhere to go. In many of these cases, parents didn’t care where their children were, but my grandparents would serve as mediators to try to work through the issues between parent and child. My mom has done a fair amount of the same as well. She gave my brother’s friend refuge when he was being abused at his parent’s home. She took in my first boyfriend every weekend to let him leave the abusive and toxic situation he was living in. My mom also gave my friend refuge when she was homeless. As for me, working with the homeless has made me even more grateful for all the little things in life.”

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“Throughout my life, I have been doing what I can for others. When I used to sing at an open mic in Oshkosh, I realized how many homeless were around and often had meaningful conversations with the few who would come into the coffee shop. At Christmastime, I used to make up paper bags with some non-perishable food items, instant food and drink packets, some plastic utensils, clothing like socks, toiletry items and a homemade Christmas card with an inspirational message in it. I would leave several of these bags at the coffee shop and when they’d come in for a cup of coffee, the staff would give them one of the anonymous bags. I heard from the staff that very often tears were shed when they realized what it was. More recently, I started a Facebook page called Betsy’s Backpacks. I got a lot of donations from the community. I would put together backpacks with basic needs items and include information about the Solutions Center, job resource center, public library help list, etc. When I saw someone that I thought was in need or that I knew was homeless, I would give them a backpack. I like the feeling of making a difference in someone’s life. Helping someone better themselves and giving them the tools they need to succeed is, I believe, my life’s calling.”

Casey FrenchComment