Bringing You Up To Date…
Madison Homelessness Initiative (MHI) is a grassroots, volunteer, nonprofit. Its mission is to address issues of homelessness in practical and timely ways while awakening and motivating community toward an ever-greater capacity for understanding, compassion and empathic action on behalf of our neighbors living homelessness.
With the launch of MHI in January 2007 came the desire to come together as neighbors who share the streets of Madison – each one of us richly endowed with lessons and experiences of life, and each impacted negatively by homelessness. We were in search of the largest perspective from the broadest base of community, and a compassionate and honest process within which to receive, hold and seek understanding toward the ultimate goal of change.
Our first 'Dialogue on Homelessness – Nurturing Our Capacity for Change' (DoH) held on November 3rd 2007 at the Madison Public Library, hosted 180 participants for a professionally facilitated engagement that would be the first of 32 sessions over four seasons, running from fall through spring 2007 – 2011. These were the settings for transformative relationships to emerge, and new insight to be attained. The 'Dialogues' built skills for our toolbox as agents of change. The 'Dialogues' have been recognized and awarded for their positive contribution to community.
Informed and encouraged by the 'Dialogues' and by ongoing Neighbor to Neighbor Outreach, MHI has created programs and services in response to what have been identified as some of the most critical matters in regard to body and soul survival while living on the streets or in shelter.
For example, keeping up with grooming and personal hygiene while living without access to facilities. This deficiency in the 'System' translated into loss of dignity, comfort, health and opportunity. Furthermore it contributed to myths and stereotyping, and to the criminalization of homeless individuals.
In the fall of 2007 a collaborative effort between MHI and First United Methodist Church at the church in downtown Madison was initiated. It evolved into 'Project Shower-Power', providing showers several days a week together with a wide range of grooming and hygiene supplies all made available by MHI. MHI volunteers facilitated this program, which grew over the past 12 months to serve over 2400 visits. MHI is happy to report that as of August 21, 2012 its long held wish to see FUMC embrace this mission within its own ministry has come pass.
In July 2011, an obviously needed companion to 'Shower-Power' kicked off as 'Project Bubbles' at a neighborhood laundromat where MHI makes available free accessible laundry opportunities including coins for the machines, detergent and dryer sheets. Borrow clothing is also provided in a range of sizes in order for folks the benefit of washing the clothes they are wearing by swapping into these meanwhile. MHI volunteers facilitate this program which is on target to serve over 2500 visits this year. This community setting is also a wonderful opportunity for neighbors to get to know neighbors in a very natural way.
Winter survival clothing and footwear is another focus of MHI, and over the last five winters we have distributed thousands of quality items to help preserve health, life and limb. Year round there is the demand for sleeping bags, bike locks, backpacks, ponchos, new socks and undergarments, and MHI has multiple sites and methods for distribution.
Toward the end of the each year when hotel vouchers for medical reasons run out at agencies such as the Salvation Army, MHI has stepped up to provide hotel respite along with meal cards and prescription purchases.
MHI considers each individual request to determine how best it might be effective in addressing the expressed need. Sometimes bus tickets within or beyond Madison are purchased so that folks can be reunited with family or opportunities that will lead them out of homelessness or to better health. Art supplies have been bought to sustain the soul and livelihood of an artist. Haircuts, funds for courses and school supplies, a travel bag for the trip to a mother's funeral, a suit for a job interview and church days, new size 17 shoes because used ones were not found… are examples of the ways MHI listens and responds.
Since fall 2007, MHI 'Neighbor to Neighbor Outreach' efforts have gently walked some of the most vulnerable neighbors on our streets out of homelessness. This is hugely satisfying, no matter how labor intensive it is.
There is of course more to tell, and most definitely the desire to do so. You are invited to contact Donna Asif, the founding director of the Madison Homelessness Initiative for more information or to ask about becoming involved with MHI.
Valued private and community donors fund MHI. Rotary Foundation of Madison awarded us a generous grant this year to help sustain Projects 'Shower-Power' and 'Bubbles'. The demand however for laundry use at Project Bubbles has far exceeded our expectations and budget. We are committed to sustaining this essential service.
Donations are appreciated beyond what words can express. They touch lives and strengthen hearts. I have witnessed the reach of generosity as it influences situations and perspectives such that significant and positive change is set in motion.
To learn more about the Madison Homelessness Initiative, enjoy the slide show.
Thank you so much for your interest and support!
Donna Asif, Founding Director