Walking into the S.O.M.E (So Others Might Eat) building, the group was unsure of what to expect. After serving lunch to the homeless, poor, and hungry, the group reflected that they were surprised at the variety of food options that were offered during the meal, the volume of individuals that the organization was able to serve, and the service aspect of serving the consumers beverages in their seats, but most of all, the group was surprised to learn that the organization offers much more than meals. Beyond basic needs such as food, laundry, clothing, and showers, S.O.M.E also offers healthcare, social services, job training, and housing. When speaking with the Program Director of Volunteer, Food Services, and Material Donations, he explained that food alone does not change lives, it is crucial to take a holistic approach. This holistic approach includes providing a multitude services such as mental health and addiction counseling, education, job training, soft skills training, money management training, affordable housing, and many more. S.O.M.E is able to offer these services in one place, to help eliminate barriers to accessing the services. Individuals are able to find each of these services by going up and down the stairs under one roof.
Through serving lunch to the community, the group was able to see that poverty disproportionately effects certain populations, but it can happen to anyone. There are doctors and lawyers who come to S.O.M.E for meals because they are unable to both support their families, pay for housing, and feed themselves. The group learned that in Washington D.C., individuals have to make over 2.5 times minimum wage to be able to afford a two bedroom apartment, not including costs of living. This is why an affordable housing model, like that of S.O.M.E’s is preferable to that of rapid rehousing, because if individuals are placed in housing and their rent is covered for a year, then they will still likely be homeless in a year because they still will not be able to afford the housing. The group was impressed with how many different kinds of housing that S.O.M.E offers, in that it offers housing to many different groups, such as veterans, families, or those with mental health disorders, and the housing offers resources within it for each of those populations.
The group learned about how how poverty develops from capitalism and from the division between individuals who want to offer some help, but not so much that they jeopardize their own financial situation. Additionally, they learned that shelters in D.C. are different than those in Atlanta because only 7% are residential, with most of them only open from 7pm-7am. They also learned that family poverty is often underreported because families fear consequences for reporting their situation. Families would rather stay together than report that they are homeless for fear of being separated. The greatest takeaway however, was that the Program Director told the group that through volunteering, they are helping to remove some of the invisibility that the poor population faces. He told the group that many times, when one stops at a stop light, they try not to notice the individuals out begging for money. However, when one truly sees the individual, one is able to help that individual by listening to the individual, but also by sharing a different perspective and by making a different life truly tangible to that person. The Program Director told the group that if individuals talk to a real nursing student, they may be more likely to consider that path for themselves. The Program Director also advised that everyone do small things to make the community in poverty felt more seen. This includes creating emergency paper bags to keep in the car with a rain poncho and a bottle of water to hand out to individuals in need.
The group ended the day with the President of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, where they learned to become involved with professional organizations, and also the critical issues facing the Hispanic population, including lack of insurance or inability to pay for insurance for themselves, or their families. This is especially pertinent for the construction and housecleaning fields that are not required to provide insurance for their employees. The group came away with many ideas of how to become more culturally aware nurses in the future.