This simple, brilliant idea gives homeless people a way to get ahead.

Homelessness is one of the most rampant — and, perhaps by extension, most overlooked — problems currently facing society.

It's something that most of us routinely witness firsthand without ever really stopping to think of a solution beyond offering a handful of change or the leftovers from our lunch.

Thankfully, some humanitarian organizations recognize the need for action and are working to come up with solutions. The Winnipeg-based Siloam Mission is one of those places.


All photos via Siloam Mission, used with permission.

The nonprofit group is offering a unique way for its city's homeless population to bounce back from hardship: putting them to work.

Yes, in addition to providing its roughly 110 residents with a roof to sleep under, three meals a day, clothing, and regular access to health care, the Siloam Mission has also launched several "progressive services," according to Cathy Ste. Marie, a spokesperson for the organization.

One such service is Mission Off the Streets (MOST), a program that allows Siloam residents to earn up to $11 per hour by cleaning city streets.

Ste. Marie explains how the program came about:

"We were seeing men and women who wanted to get back out into the workforce but were just so far down ... they had lost their homes, some people had lost their families. It's just a very hard situation to see yourself getting out of, so all confidence is often lost.
But we also saw a lot of people with skills, people who were the opposite of what people see when they think of homelessness. Once they got out there, they loved it. It was giving them a sense of purpose, a reason to get up again."

The initiative became successful after it launched in 2009.

The work program is now a full-time, Monday-through-Friday operation. Last year alone, it employed some 86 people and was responsible for over 720 miles of streets being cleaned and some 886 bags of trash being collected.

But beyond that, Siloam is using the program to provide people who have lost everything with the confidence — and, perhaps more importantly, the resources — to get back in the workforce, offering references to those in need and helping people with no previous work experience develop the soft skills upon which every job is based, such as reporting to a boss and working with a team.

When their residents are ready to take the leap into employment, Siloam even takes things a step further with a vocational rehabilitation program.

That's done through a program called Building Futures, and it's designed for individuals who require assistance securing sustainable employment.

Building Futures determines the skill levels of residents who have succeeded in the MOST program and helps develop their strengths through skill assessments and training. This could mean providing career information, securing funding for schooling, or helping their residents build literacy skills.

The stories of the homeless who come through their doors can be both heart-wrenching and inspirational.

Ste. Marie recounts one such story about a man who came to them last Christmas, having held the same job for 25 years only to one day find the doors locked and the company bankrupted.

His marriage fell apart that same month, and his house was taken from him shortly thereafter. He had given up, until the organization's work program "helped him realize that he had a lot to offer," in the words of Ste. Marie. Less than a year later, he had received a grant for $7,800 to apply for a truck driver's license, a position that could see him making $60,000 a year upon completion of the necessary courses.

If this project seems like one of those obvious, "Why are we not funding this?" ideas — that's probably because it is.

Winnipeg isn't the only city experimenting with this approach to homelessness. For example, the mayor of Albuquerque recently did something similar in the New Mexico city.

Author William Golding once wrote that "the greatest ideas are the simplest." And what's simpler than putting those who want to work, back to work?

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Image by 5540867 from Pixabay

Figuring out what to do for a mom on Mother's Day can be a tricky thing. There's the standard flowers or candy, of course, and taking her out to a nice brunch is a fairly universal winner. But what do moms really want?

Speaking from experience—my kids range from age 12 to 20—a lot depends on the stage of motherhood. What I wanted when my kids were little is different than what I want now, and I'm sure when my kids are grown and gone I'll want something different again.

We asked our readers to share what they want for Mother's Day, and while the answers were varied, there were some common themes that emerged.

Moms of young kids want a break.

When your kids are little, motherhood is relentless. Precious and adorable, yes. Wonderful and rewarding, absolutely. But it's a LOT. And it's a lot all the fricking time.

Most moms I know would love the gift of alone time, either away at a hotel or Airbnb or in their own home with no one else around. Time alone is a priceless commodity at this stage, especially if it comes with someone else taking care of cleaning, making sure the kids are fed and safe and occupied, doing the laundry, etc.

This is especially true after more than a year of pandemic living, where we moms have spent more time than usual at home with our offspring. While in some ways that's been great, again, it's a lot.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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