The third Street Smarts event was held today at Pathways of Birmingham, a shelter for homeless and abused women and children in the city. I can honestly say that it was the best of the three programs we’ve run–looks like we’ve gotten Street Smart(er) with a little practice!
One of the things I’ve learned from working with the homeless population is just how unpredictable their circumstances, as well as how much those of us who go to bed (as in, we have one) with a roof (of our own) over our heads don’t understand about life on the streets. Each time I’ve run Street Smarts in partnership with Susan G. Komen of North Central Alabama and with help from volunteers from Komen, UAB, churches, and many other organizations throughout Birmingham, something new comes up that we hadn’t prepared for.
For instance, when we launched Street Smarts at Church of the Reconciler, it never dawned on us that we’d need something more than face recognition to know who had already received their lunch or a tote bag at the end of the event. When a woman popped up who said she didn’t get “one” of whatever it might be that was being passed out, it was her word against that of a volunteer. So, at Cooper Green, we added ID tags (which may or may not include women’s real names, depending on their need for anonymity) that could be marked off as participants made their way through the stations (“N” for Nails, “E” for Education, “L” for Lunch, and so on). The tags also identify which women are okay with having their picture taken (solid) and which aren’t (striped). Thank you, Sarah Grogan, Community Outreach Coordinator for Komen, for coming up with this do-all system for keeping track of the day’s events!
At Cooper Green (Street Smarts, take two), we experienced some problems with timing. A group of women receiving spa services finished before a group in the education classroom, and there’s not a whole lot to do in a hospital to pass the time–at least, not the kinds of things you’d want to do with your time! So, at Pathways, we set up a craft and movie area in the Day Center, where the women could sit and relax between sessions. This solution seemed to do the trick!
Even the breast cancer awareness/health education session went off without a hitch today. Cindy Hayhurst, RN, director of the Early Detection Breast and Cervical Cancer Program for the Department of Health, provided information about the services provided, as well as some basic definitions for “pap smears” and “HPV” and “mammogram.” I followed with a discussion of some popular myths about breast cancer, using my own experiences to illustrate. Then, I brought in Edwina, who told the ladies about how it felt to be diagnosed with breast cancer while living on the street and what she did to get the treatment she needed and continue to take care of herself. The participants had plenty of questions and comments, which the teacher in me suggests is a good thing. They were engaged, really engaged!
Thanks go to some of our new volunteers and partners:
* Mary Kay representatives, who walked the women through facials and lip treatments.
* Aveda representatives, who brought student beauty technicians in training to offer participants hand massages and nail color.
* All of the wonderful employees and volunteers from Pathways, for welcoming us into their home to share a message of knowledge and hope.
All of the pictures from today’s event were taken by Pathways Development Director/professional journalist Karen Griner.