A Good Idea

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Call to Arms (SF & NJ)

Call to Arms (SF & NJ)


Call to Arms is a direct service event for the members of our community who are currently homeless. Instead of asking the people we serve to come to us during our Call to Arms events, we go to them, literally meeting them in their environment. We feel this is beneficial for a few reasons.

First, many people who are homeless have no means of transportation, are struggling with drug addiction or are being hindered by severe mental health issues. Finding a warm place to rest is difficult enough let alone having to trek around the city to get basic life essentials. By us breaking off into 4-5 teams and canvassing the city with needed goods, we can ensure that a higher percentage of people will benefit from our outreach. Next, we feel that meeting someone on the streets, again in their environment, helps us break down unfortunate societal barriers and provide us the opportunity to connect on a different level. Picture a food line at a shelter. You are typically standing on one side of a counter or table (a physical barrier), wearing sanitary clothing such as gloves, smocks, and hair nets (a psychological barrier), while the person you are serving is being asked to rapidly go through the line (eliminating the crucial “connection time”). When meeting them in the streets, in plain clothes, with no time restraints, the possibility for a true connection can take place. This also gives us the chance to provide items that the people might not typically get at a shelter or kitchen. During the Call to Arms events, we hand out a mixture of unique food items (snacks, health food, baked goods, etc.), hygiene products they rarely receive (feminine products, hand sanitizer, shampoo, razors, etc.), and often times brand new or gently worn warm clothes (beanies, gloves, socks, etc.). This type of service also gives us the flexibility to hand out other unique items such as gifts or pre-stamped postcards.

A Good Idea typically provides mass quantities of whatever items we plan to hand out for each event, we also ask that volunteers bring items to hand out as well. Not only does this give us higher quantities to hand out but it’s also a different feeling handing out something you’ve purchased.

Our Call to Arms events are typically held on a Thursday night, after work (starting at around 6:45pm), and begin with a food/clothing prep for 45 minutes, then a short “how to” and safety orientation, and then we hit the streets at around 7:30pm. The groups usually take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to hand out the items and then we get people together afterwards to socialize (optional). The social aspect of our events is key as it allows us to further connect our community and provide the space for people to share their experiences from the event.