How important is volunteering for your organization?
It is important, yes. We have volunteers who conduct many of our evening workshops to help our beneficiaries learn financial planning skills or parenting workshops, housing workshops, etc.
So there are two worlds in San Francisco, and homeless people live directly among the successful people of Silicon Valley?
This is probably one of our biggest and most visible problems. There are so many wealthy people in the neighborhoods and our housings are right next door, so the homeless people are right on the same streets and squares.
How do you deal with people who do not want to accept help?
It is difficult because it often happens that someone goes through all the shelters and still comes back two or three times. But sometimes the third or fourth time is a hit and then they can be helped. Most of the time it is easier to work with families than with individuals because families are more motivated to get back on their feet and come home because they have children they care about. These are the ones who often leave in the middle of the night because they have taken drugs or are simply not ready for help. We see this very often and it is difficult for the staff because they have really big hearts and want to help the people as much as possible. Often, however, several attempts are simply necessary.
How does your work affect your personal everyday life?
I work in a great leadership team. Everyone is really committed. Everybody makes fun, even though the work is very serious. We also put a lot of emphasis on self-care to balance the work. If you don’t take care of yourself enough, you can get a kind of compassionate fatigue and eventually burn out. We try to fight against this and also help our employees to work on it. We keep up the spirit and we feel very rewarded by the work we do. This makes us happier, more satisfied people in the long run.
How do you deal with obstacles?
We will continue to grow and take the obstacles as they come. With Corona, it’s hard to know what the future holds, but I can imagine that next year we will change our focus to making sure the homeless stay healthy.
What can everyone, regardless of income, do to help people in need?
Everybody can get involved at his or her place of residence. You can also simply be kind to the homeless. One can support events, get involved in local politics or give financial support.
In view of the upcoming elections: What would you wish for from politics?
That is a difficult question. I think we are on the right track, especially with regard to homelessness. I think there must be more social services for people who do not have enough, whether it is food or money for tuition fees. The issue of health care is huge. Above all, we must have more social services so that the gap between the wealthy and those who have nothing does not widen.