New Hope for Families, a homeless shelter in Bloomington, is looking for donations to support families living there during the holidays — a season that brings extra financial pressures — to allow them to continue their traditions.
The holiday season unleashes even more struggles for people experiencing homelessness than normal, New Hope executive director Emily Pike said. New Hope is Monroe County’s only shelter that allows families with children to stay together, Pike said.
“The holidays in particular are a time when we tend to be thinking about our families and about what that means to us,” Pike said. “If this is a time when you are homeless, parents can really feel like they’ve let their kids down because they haven’t been able to provide all that they wish they could.”
New Hope needs donation items all year long but requests other special items during the holiday season. Pike said anything you buy at Kroger that isn’t food is something New Hope would like to receive, such as paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. These items are used in the shelter and also sent with families into their new homes after leaving New Hope, Pike said.
New Hope is also looking for individuals, families or businesses to sponsor holiday gifts for families. Parents come up with wish lists, which New Hope then asks the community to help donate those things. These gifts help families find joy in the holidays during these hard times, Pike said.
“A lot of our families will say that those are Santa’s gifts,” Pike said. “That’s a way that we can allow families to continue to celebrate holidays in a way that is meaningful for them and fits with their families’ traditions and also maintains a little dignity.”
Pike said working at New Hope has been rewarding for her, especially when those helped can are able to obtain their own home afterwards and become more financially stable. Just over 80% of the families who stay at New Hope move out into leases in their own names and into homes they can afford, Pike said.
Pike said it is exciting to see people overcome adversity and realize that they are not defined by homelessness, but are instead defined by the way they care for their families and the way that they participate in their community.
She said she advises students who want to get involved with helping people experiencing homelessness to remember that you don’t know anything about their story. Often when people are trying to help, they accidentally ask people experiencing homelessness to forfeit some dignity. Pike said anything volunteers can do that maintains dignity, respect and compassion for those impacted by homelessness will be appreciated by the that population.
Students in IU’s Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity, have worked with New Hope this semester. Junior Catie Pursifull, APO’s Vice President of Service, organized their fall service project revolving around raising money and donating items for New Hope. She said she learned more about the realities of the way volunteer aid affects people experiencing homelessness.
“The homeless are often out of the conversation in volunteer efforts, and shelters are severely underfunded,” Pursifull said. “The best way to help these families is to provide them with stable housing and ensure they can stay together rather than judge any families for their circumstances.”
Sophomore and APO member Mohammed Bu-Abdal said he contributed to this service project because he wanted to leave a positive effect on the homeless community through New Hope.
“It will help them and take care of them in a time of need when they can't find enough help to live their daily life,” Bu-Abdal said.
If interested in sponsoring a family or a child at New Hope for the holiday season, people are asked to contact the New Hope offices. Wish lists and directions for donating are on New Hope’s official website.