I just found out about a contest Wal-Mart has started on facebook. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about the contest, but here's the basic idea, as I understand it. The company has made a fan page for every metropolitan area in the United States. "Liking" the page will act as a vote for the area, and by today, December 31st, which ever area gets the most "Likes" wins and Wal-Mart will donate 1.5 million dollars to help feed the hungry in that area. I applaud Wal-Mart for this.
I've said already, that there is plenty of food in the US and that there should be no one going hungry. I feel the money could be better spent on improving living conditions for the needy, but that's not what I'm writing about.
I found myself in a conversation over a very dear friends facebook status today about things like this. His status said, "I would imagine just donating money to charities or buying dinner for a homeless person is actually more beneficial than clicking "Like" on a Facebook link... almost as good as changing your profile pic to save kids from child abuse..." He was making a point that although it's very good that corporations to help out in their community, we, as individuals, should really do more than we do.
I put in my two sense like I always do, especially when it's the subject of poverty, and was eventually asked the question, "What organization? Or how would you get the money to those who actually need it? Who decides who "actually" needs it?"
The question came up because I said that it worried me that a lot less than the full 1.5 million would make it to the people who need it. It's a really good question and my answer took some thought. This is what I answered:
That's the hard part. Most states have pretty good assistance programs for individuals. In a lot of cases it's used well and does it's job of getting people off the streets. But in a lot of cities rents are higher than what people are given.
As far as an organization that does the best, it would change from city to city. I wish the organizations would work together more than they do. The one that shows up the most is Union Gospel Mission, but the programs from city to city aren't the same and they're all run independently so "prices and participation" vary, basically they just share a name.
As far as who actually needs it. Right now I'd worry more about families than individuals. The economic downturn has forced a lot of people out of their homes who have always been hard workers. My personal opinion is that these are the people who need help most right now. I've run into a lot of people who are looking for work all the time, or work part time at McDonald's or something and simply don't make nearly enough to support themselves, let alone a family.
I hope that helped a little. The sad answer is that donating to local charities and shelters is the best that the average person can give. And if you're in a city that has a homeless newspaper, (Salt Lake does) buy one when you see a guy selling it. Half the money goes to the person and the other half goes to help them continue printing. It's one of the best ways to get money to someone who is really trying to better their life, and the articles are really informative and eye opening.
After I had written that, a lot of my insecurities vanished. It showed me that I have learned a lot, and hopefully the things I have to say will help make some change.
I don't really get into most holidays, but it seems fitting that this happened on New Year's Eve. Hopefully, I can take this new found self esteem with me into 2011 and the last half of my time on the streets, and with it, keep making all the difference I can. So, thank you Roger, for being an awesome friend all the time and for bringing up a valid point. And thank you Julianna, for asking probably one of the best questions I've ever been asked. And thank YOU for reading what I have to say. I hope the new year brings you health, safety, and happiness.