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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?

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


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