helping the homeless
Hallinan students make 100 blankets for homeless youth
Hallinan fifth- and sixth-graders got a lesson in street smarts recently, thanks to Dennis Lundberg, associate director for Willamette Bridge of Janus Youth Programs. Lundberg was at the school to pick up 100 fleece blankets the students had made for the organization. He was grateful for the donation, as he would have about 70 homeless teens looking to his organization for shelter that evening.
'We let them pick their blanket,' Lundberg told the students during an assembly. 'That makes it more theirs than if we just handed them a blanket.' He went on to tell the students the hard truth that not everyone has a cozy blanket to snuggle up in, or even a warm, dry place to sleep at night.
Lundberg was invited to Hallinan Elementary School by teacher Lizz Pilkington, who has worked to support Janus Youth Programs for the past six years. She said she liked to involve students with the program because they can actually see how what they do makes a difference to others.
As part of the service project learning experience Pilkington and the rest of the fifth- and sixth-grade teaching team asked students to do chores for family members and neighbors to earn money to buy fleece for the blankets.
'On that day we were out of school (because of inclement weather) I was at the fabric store buying 50 bolts of material,' Pilkington said. About 500 yards of fabric went into making the blankets.
Pilkington said Lundberg relates well to young people and can share information about homelessness with them in a manner that is candid but not uncomfortable for them to hear.
'He does such an incredible job,' she said.
During the school assembly, Lundberg asked the audience if they had ever seen a homeless person, to which most students' hands were raised. Most raised their hands again in response to his question of whether they knew any homeless people.
'They can look scary or weird, and they are certainly not happy,' said Lundberg. 'But homelessness affects all of us. It's a rising issue, and there are lots of reasons why people would be homeless.'
He explained that Janus' Porch Light program helps keep runaways safe with the intent of eventually returning them to safe homes.
Janus Youth Program's Street Light shelter helps homeless youths.
'It can be scary and unsafe to be out on the streets,' he said.
Lundberg said both the Porch Light and Street Light programs work to get teens indoors where they are safe and help them either return home or find another safe place.
'All the kids get a bunk bed and blanket,' he said. 'You've done a wonderful thing. Lots of people need these blankets.
'We work hard to figure out how to get them off the street and out of shelters. They can take the blanket with them when they leave the shelter. … We can't keep up (with the need for blankets and toiletries).'