By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — “Homelessness is not about statistics. It is about the people,” Food and Shelter Executive Director April Doshier said Friday at Food and Shelter’s Wings of Hope luncheon.
The event provided ‘food for thought’ with information about homelessness in Norman, success stories and Food and Shelter’s goals for the future.
Food and Shelter has been serving the community since 1983 and operates with the belief that as one team and one voice, the community can be unstoppable and make a true impact by preventing and overcoming homelessness.
In the past year, Food and Shelter has focused on creating programs that allow individuals to build skills so they can move forward in their lives. One such job initiative program is that of START (Skills Training And Resources For Tomorrw), which seeks to empower and encourage individuals to develop skills that will help them obtain jobs.
Food and Shelter recognizes that although the faces and stories of the homeless are different, the journey is the same and hope is central to living a fulfilled life. Because of this, Food and Shelter provides more than the basics. The organization fosters a sense of autonomy, so that the homeless believe in themselves.
Chris and Mark Boden, Food and Shelter residents, know the dedication of the Food and Shelter team and said they were both thankful because they had someone to lean on.
“Food and Shelter has done so much more for us than give us somewhere to stay. Since Food and Shelter, I have been sober for eight months. We thought we’d get married at city hall, but they decorated for our wedding and provided a meal,” Mark said.
“They even did my hair and makeup,” Chris said.
Luncheon attendee and frequent volunteer Becky Franklin said a lot of people have a hard time looking past the problems the homeless may have.
“A lot of people get callous and think that everyone (the homeless) are drug dealers, users, etc. but they’re not. They’re more than their problems,” Franklin said.
Doshier shared a personal story about how she used to look past the homeless and saw only problems as many people do. Doshier explained that she had a turning point and saw the homeless differently when she realized those on the streets may be a father, daughter or friend to someone.
“I made eye contact with a homeless man and thought that’s my dad; that’s someone’s dad. Each homeless person needs one person to believe in them,” Doshier said.
Currently, Food and Shelter has six on-site housing units and six off-site housing units, but its main goal for next year is to expand by adding four more housing units. Volunteers who can share their time as teachers or mentors are also needed by the organization. Board President Tish Marek said that community involvement and believing in the homeless is key to the organization.
“Hope springs from individuals and people, but it springs like a fountain when you have a community working together,” Marek said.
Pledge cards and envelopes were provided at the luncheon so that attendees’ talent, time and contributions might become part of Food and Shelter’s team.