Friday, May 24, 2013
Couple's National Crusade To Help Homeless Brings Duo To Anchorage
Young couple of Project 50/50 live on the streets to understand, help the homeless
ANCHORAGE—A married couple is in Anchorage as part of a national crusade to tackle America’s homeless problem, state by state.
It’s called Project 50/50. Shay Kelley and her husband Shane Patrick have hit 50 states in 50 weeks to learn more about homelessness. This is the couple’s second time in Anchorage.
Kelley and Patrick are not doing their work in rooms, conferences or even in an office. They are outside in parks and sidewalks across the nation in order to meet the needs of the homeless community head-on.
For Kelley, helping the homeless is pretty simple. As part of the nationwide Project 50/50, Kelley and her husband do street outreach in their own way, by going straight to people to find and bring them what they need to live another day.
“Food, clothing, hygiene products, just things like that people need to survive,” Kelley said.
And it’s not just talk. The couple goes from place to place, living a homeless lifestyle, including right here in Anchorage.
“Looks like we will be on the sidewalks, or in the parks, or wherever we can go,” Kelly said. “It’s definitely hand to mouth, day by day, week by week, but God provides.”
Kelley says their goal is to actually understand where people are coming from so they can help.
“When you can join in solidarity with a person who is in struggle, it makes a huge difference in both the way we are received,” Kelley said. “And we are received very well. That last friend or family member that would bail you out if it were life or death, imagine if you didn't even have that. That's a lot of the people out here.”
In Anchorage, shelters are crowded.
“We had 189 people stay here Tuesday night,” said Mary Beth Bragiel, the deputy director of Catholic Social Services of Alaska. “Monday, we had 226. Anchorage has a severe lack of affordable housing and until that is addressed efficiently the shelters are going to be full.”
“When someone has no other option but to sleep outdoors, criminalizing it definitely doesn’t do any good,” said Kelley, who says it’s up to the community to show the homeless population more love. “Sometimes it’s as simple as me being on the sidewalk and I meet someone who needs a new pair of shoes, post about it on Twitter or Facebook or whatever and some kind soul out there reaches out, gets that person a new pair of shoes.”
That unconditional kindness can easily be spread if people want to, she said.
Project 50/50's funding comes entirely from donations. Kelley and Patrick will be in Anchorage, going to the downtown soup kitchen, Bean’s Cafe and on the streets until Monday.
The couple will then head to Iowa to talk to homeless people there.
In comparing Anchorage to other cities, Shay said Anchorage is unique because top city officials are aiming to ban outdoor camping and sleeping on benches or sidewalks. If those proposed bans are made into law, Shay said, the city’s homeless population would only grow, because the city lacks affordable housing.