LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Lafayette Transitional Housing and other local organizations are celebrating National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week November 11th-19th.
Jennifer Shook is the Development Director for LTHC and she said they have events happening almost everyday during that week to spread awareness. Click here to learn more about those events.
She said she is most excited for the Voices of Homelessness art show. It will be hosted at Pete’s Diner on November 14th, 5-8 p.m. It will feature photographs and poems, all created by either currently or former homeless people.
"It really helps drive home the message that these are people. Homelessness describes their living situation, not who they are as a person,” said Shook. “They have value, they have worth, and they are in a bad situation and they need our help."
Shook shared why she cares so much about this cause.
"I see them everyday. I walk through our day services room or I'm in one of our building,” she said. “They are people. They are lovely, funny, generous, kind hearted people."
People like James Ruth and his service dog Sheila. He got Sheila when she was nine months old, just six months after his wife passed away.
"Becca passed away, March of 2011 from a diabetic coma and it broke me," he said. “Sheila and I bonded from the very beginning. She helps me and so I take care of her.”
Ruth said he’s been playing chess since he was 10 years old. He sees a common theme between the game and his situation.
“It has taught me patience,” he said.
One myth the people at LTHC are hoping to end is that homeless people come from out of town just to use helpful resources like the ones they provide.
“The majority of people we serve are homeless in Tippecanoe County,” said Shook. “These are our neighbors.”
Neighbors like Adrienne Kyles. She is a Lafayette resident who lost everything after going down the path of drugs. but she still has goals for her future.
"To try and stay on a sober living path and have a job somewhere and a place to stay, those are my small goals but it's where I need to start off at,” she said.
But as the weather gets colder, LTHC needs more community support in order to help people like James and Adrienne move forward in their lives.
“We have a group of about 20 individuals who are camping essentially down by the river,” said Shook. “It’s too cold to be outside.”
Shook shared some numbers gathered from over the past year of serving our local homeless.
"We just finished our fiscal year 2018 and in that year we served of 1800 unique individuals,” she said. “Last year we served over 500 children."
But they are having triumphs over homelessness.
"80%-ish of those folks that participate in our services are leaving us housed,” she said. “So it's not just a revolving door on the front end of services. It’s LTHC getting people into housing so that way they are stable.”
She also said they are making great headway on their new housing facility. They broke ground on the site in August.
And now they have walls and some concrete floors installed. They hope it will be completed by this time next year. Shook said it will be instrumental in helping them provide aid to those in our community who need it most.
Ultimately, this awareness week is about spreading hope and understanding.
"Everyone's story is different if you take time to listen to it,” said Kyles. “It makes a person’s day really."