Homeless for the Holidays


New London as a ‘Recovery Town’

As the holiday season rolls around again, the inclination to give enters the air. While food drives, clothes donations, and more invitations to give are more accessible, it is important to note that for those on the recieving end, a donation can make the difference duing a holiday. Where cans of soup, boxes of pasta, old blankets, old shoes, along with many other donation items go is a mystery to many of us. But for those on the receiving end, it is a saving grace.
During this season, “homeless” can often take the position of a buzzword. For many, it is hard to comprehend the gravity of that word or what can really happen to spark change. In our counrty, the momentum of change is a strong one. The change and aid towards homelessness does not end with these drives; but only begins.
As most of these resources rely heavily on donations, private organizations, and largely, churches, it is important to recognize the power of donation.
Donation expands itself to people, their time, and, above all, their empathy.
New London has been dubbed a “Recovery Town” by many members of the social service community. “Recovery Town” essentially means a place where people go to get their life together, get clean from a drug addiction, or some sort of rehabilitation. But social service worker Wendy Fox thinks it expands beyond the connotation of the word. Fox manages a halfway house (a center for helping former drug addicts, prisoners, psychiatric patients, or others to adjust to life in general society) owned by the Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, one of the local drug rehabilitation centers. Homeless shelters are not the only place where many homeless people find themselves. In fact, they rarely begin there. Awareness and recognition of other resources that help the homeless is important to the expansion of our knowledge regarding homelessness.
New London’s Community Meal Center has been avidly serving the community for 33 years now. According to Chester Fairley, a volunteer of 32 years, the soup kitchen does not receive any federal or state money. Only 5 percent of their budget comes from the town of New London. In the back of the kitchen a calendar can be found, filled with church names and organizations, listing all the volunteers who will keep the kitchen flowing with food. The importance of volunteers cannot be stressed enough.
“Seeing the gratitude they have in their eyes-that’s why I do this,” said Christie Hayes, a volunteer from St. John’s church in East Lyme.
This cycle of giving seems to be apparent through social service involved with homelessness and poverty. Helping, giving, and sharing are fluid exchanges.
According to Ms. Fox, between rehabs, shelters, and halfway houses, there is an upwards of 20-30 resources just in New London alone. Through her time working there, she says people are more inclined to offer a helping hand around the holidays.
“I wouldn’t say the crowds change–maybe their hearts change,” said Ms. Fox, about the changing culture of the holidays. But above all, she says one thing remains true: “I have learned through this work that we all want the same thing: love and  security.”

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