U.S. income tax law encourages charitable giving, since charitable contributions are deductible for taxpayers who itemize. For that reason, and for a desire to help worthy causes and those less fortunate, I have always made some monetary contributions to charities. Like many, when working I had monthly charitable payroll deductions taken from my salary. Recently, at an old age I have increased my charitable monetary giving.
But recently I have also tried giving some time, as well as money. To be sure, when younger I did give some of my time to charitable causes as a big brother for the Big Brothers Big Sisters
organization, and as a volunteer for the Children's Cancer Association
. But I had not donated time for a while until last year when I started helping some nights at a homeless shelter.
My activities at the homeless shelter included serving food, greeting the clients, cleaning up, and spending the night as potential support for the paid overnight supervisor (Lisa, my girlfriend, who was the person who got me involved in the shelter). Serving food and greeting the clients was the most fun, because everyone likes you when you are giving them food. I ate the food too; it was homemade and good. The overnight stays in the shelter were punctuated by some tense moments when yelling would break out and I had to be ready to help the supervisor.
Dealing with the clients I saw some things that I expected. This shelter is a "low-barrier" shelter, which means that it lets clients over-night in the shelter who have mental health problems and who are under the influence of drugs. Plus there are families with children and people with dogs. Not surprisingly, I had more contact than I had before in my life with people who were seriously mentally ill, people who were under the influence of drugs, and people who suffered from both mental illness and drug addiction.
But I did not expect to see as many clients (Maybe a third of the clients) who had no mental or drug problems but rather seemed to be there for bad-luck and circumstantial reasons. Some had lost their jobs. Some had gotten divorced and lost their homes. Some families had a family member working but did not have enough resources to rent a place to stay, so they had to sleep in their car or in the shelter.
Lucky for all of these clients, during the cold winter months the shelter gave them an option for a safe and warm place to stay at night.
Something else I did not expect was the high level of conversation of some of the clients. Some were obviously quite educated and thoughtful. I noted when one client used the word "narcissistic" in conversation, and when another used the word "hubris".
The shelter I have volunteered at, and also contributed money to, is part of Silverton Sheltering Services
. Besides the overnight warming shelter, the services include a day center and the provision of services to help clients transition out of homelessness.