Guest column: Raising awareness of homelessness on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore (opinion)
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and colder days with less daylight, we also recognize those who are less fortunate.
Earlier this month we honored National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, an annual program that draws attention to the problems of hunger and homelessness.
“Hunger and homelessness are epidemics that sadly affect too many members of our community,” said Marissa Muscat, executive director of Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless.
While Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is over, awareness must continue. Every person deserves food on his/her plate and a roof over his/her head. Unfortunately, far too many people in South Lake Tahoe and Stateline experience hunger and homelessness:
The poverty rate in El Dorado County is 8.7 percent.
A total of 272 students were homeless at the beginning of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District school year as were 166 students in the 2015 school year in Douglas County.
Eighty-eight people were homeless on Tahoe’s South Shore on a given January 2017 winter night.
We encourage everyone to familiarize yourself with your community resources and pick up a Barton Health 2017 Health & Wellness Directory (which also is available online at http://www.bartonhealth.org).
There are many food resources in our community, including Bread & Broth, which provides a warm meal Mondays from 4-5:30 p.m. at St. Theresa Grace Hall (1041 Lyons Ave.) and Fridays from 4-5 p.m. at Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church (2733 Lake Tahoe Blvd.). Christmas Cheer is another resource.
The Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless’ mission promotes awareness of the causes of homelessness. We know that: homelessness can affect anyone; homeless individuals are people who matter; 26 percent of Warm Room guests from the 2016-17 season were employed; and 87 percent of our Warm Room guests from the 2016-17 season were Lake Tahoe residents when they became homeless.
At the “Faces of Homelessness” event, individuals who have formerly been homeless shared their personal experiences. Six stories were told from people ranging in age from a middle school student, a high school student, and adults from the local and regional community. A common theme from the adult presenters was the desire to be recognized and seen, and to find assistance with understanding what caused their homelessness.
As we enter our third season of operating the Warm Room, the Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless thanks the generous support from South Lake Tahoe individuals, businesses, agencies and nonprofits. This season of thankfulness and giving, we continue our mission to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness by partnering with our community to promote awareness, provide warm beds and encourage self-sufficiency.
Nicole Zaborsky is a founding board member of Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless.