One afternoon a few weeks ago, I stepped off the train just south of downtown Oakland, California, where I was visiting for work. As the doors to the train opened and I stepped out onto the station platform, a warm, wet gust of wind hit me in the face. I zipped up my rain jacket, pulled up my jacket’s hood, and headed down the stairs to street level. Walking onto the sidewalk toward an office building a few blocks away, I suddenly realized where exactly I was.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me or getting to know me, but homelessness hits close to home.
While I live in the comforts of Michigan’s West Coast now, I hail from the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m a white, college-educated person with a family and a steady income living the typical West Michigan Nice middle-class lifestyle. But it hasn’t always been this way.
As I stepped away from the public transit that day, I realized it was in this Oakland neighborhood I was now walking where my aunt died when I was young. Aunt Sandy had severe physical and mental health issues. But without a robust support system, she found herself unhoused and trying to survive by living on her own—on these streets I traveled that afternoon.
Walking to my next meeting, I passed several tent encampments—a few tents with a person’s every possession spilling out onto the sidewalk, some more cardboard buildings and tents set up on the hill under an overpass.
Not too far from Oakland, I have other close relatives still today experiencing homelessness or other crises. One family member lives in an old Winnebago parked on a friend’s property. A few years ago, another family member lost their home and possessions while trying to avoid an unavoidable bankruptcy—leading them to move out of state to find refuge elsewhere.
I’m grateful my parents saw these cycles of destruction and despair when I was young and chose to fight for change. When my dad received a job offer in Michigan, he and my mom seized the opportunity. They uprooted our family to move across the country to start anew, away from the cycles of poverty plaguing our family and friends.
Homelessness can look a lot of ways—and some of them aren’t as obvious as tent encampments on the streets of Oakland, California. That’s why I love supporting the work of Good Samaritan. In a communities like Holland and Grand Haven, Good Samaritan serves people who are fighting to make a change. The opportunity Good Sam provides means people can exit homelessness—permanently. Like my family saw years ago, a safe, affordable, stable home means people can seize new opportunities. By supporting Good Samaritan, I know I can unlock opportunities for others, too.
This is why I support Good Samaritan. How about you? Share your reason below!