The Story Behind R.C.H.
Real Change for the Homeless started as an idea back in 2012 while the founder, Daniel, was homeless in upstate NY. There he met an organization that impressed him and had a lasting impact on his life. It wasn't the organization itself or their programs that stood out to him. It was the passion of every worker and volunteer. He was confused when the staff members walked around, taking the time to greet and chat with everyone.
"I will never forget Raymond S. He was the man working the front desk of the shelter. He immediately noticed that I was a new face, and there were lots of faces there. He came right over, asked my name and introduced himself. He just started asking me questions about my situation and how I got there. Then he asked if I was using drugs and if I really wanted help. He then took the time to make sure I got back on my feet. Raymond, and that organization showed me how powerful compassion can be. That is the biggest factor that led to getting out of that depressive homelessness."
Years later, the idea for R.C.H resurfaced when a random stranger posed a question on a Facebook page. The question was "Is there some way to help the homeless? If not, how would you go about doing something like that?" The responses to that question were overwhelmingly positive and it seemed as though everyone not only recognized there was a problem, but everyone wanted to help in some way or another.
"When I saw that post, the answer seemed so simple to me. I saw people responding all talking about giving food, clothes and organizing an event. All things that are helpful but ultimately don't solve the problem. I remember thinking that an event could have some success, if there were teams of services involved. There would need to be people who really understood homelessness and would face it head on with compassion. The more I thought about it... I realized that the problem has never been people not wanting to help the homeless. The problem is that people don't understand homelessness and therefore don't know how to effectively help the homeless population."
So here we are, building relationships with the homeless and the people, services, businesses, and organizations in the community who want to be the change. We've all talked about and waited so long to see it. In fact, more often than not, the homeless are excited about the idea of that relationship. They seem hopeful and fully agree that it is important to educate the public on all aspects of homelessness.
"When I first started implementing our programs, I thought the community would jump at the chance to try something different. Some are interested, many say they want to help, but getting people to show up and participate is proving more difficult than I anticipated. It's actually easier to walk up to a massive, angry-looking, homeless man who is talking to himself, making aggressive gestures and periodically shouting profanities to start a conversation about his personal life. It is easier to confront that same man with harsh truths about his choices and ask him if he is willing to stop making the same mistakes and accept help from a total stranger. It is easier to ask that man about private matters such as health issues, drug use and disabilities, than it is to get someone to listen to what that man said and why it's important."
Even without a ton of help, we have made huge strides in a short time frame. We hope that eventually, we will be able to dedicate all of our time and resources to solving the problem of homelessness and the underlying issues that cause it. Our immediate goals are, getting a van to take people to and from the services they need, funding to pay for their identification cards (because nearly all of them have had theirs stolen... usually at the shelters, or while sleeping), and God willing, a house.