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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Looks Can Be Deceiving!

I walked into my English class on Flannery O’Conner this semester expecting to be blown away by both the literary masterpieces and also the philosophical depth of each of her works. I was not expecting to have to contribute twenty hours for the semester of community service to an organization that was on the list distributed to me. I searched the green sheets of paper looking for one that I felt drawn towards and also one that I would feel comfortable working at. The second to last organization was called The Downtown Women’s Center. I got in contact with an individual who worked there and set up an appointment to begin volunteering. All I knew about the organization was that it was the first of it’s kind off Skid Row looking to help women permanently. They housed seventy-one women and the women were allowed to stay there for however long they needed. Whether it be for a few months or ten years the women had a safe place to call their own.
The drive with my roommate was interesting as our conversation shifted from what we were planning on doing later that evening to talking about the shocking reality of homelessness. Now, instead of seeing the beach we were struck with a sea of homeless men and women. We pulled in to the parking lot commented on how both of us we reluctant to see how this was going to work out for us. The first impression of the facility as I walked in was that it was extremely nice. It truly gave off the feeling of home and comfort. These women had many things to deal with, however, they were no different than my roommate and myself. As we were signing in and waiting for my contact at the facility this woman began speaking to us.
At first glance I was unsure if she worked for the Women’s center or if she was herself homeless. She was extremely clean and appeared about the age of my grandmother. Her outlook on life will forever stay with me. She began telling us that she had ten daughters and she was originally from Portland, Oregon. She was so grateful that woman like my roommate and I were at the center volunteering and helping the women on the streets. She told us that she had been raped and she knows many women that have even been killed. The most powerful words that she spoke were “don’t be sad girls because as women what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be away from my family, to not have a roof over my head, and to experience such a violent act. She had been violated yet in her violation she was so liberated and strong. Her strength and positive outlook was inspiring as she makes my mountains truly seem now like molehills.
Another woman that I met was a mother of a young man who was in his first year as the University of Southern California. What struck me about this particular woman was that she could have been a friend’s mother. She was put together and seemed to have all her affairs in order. If I saw her walking down the street I would have never guessed that she had no shelter or a place to call her own. She came to the front desk and asked me if she could place a phone. Protocol is that we must ask why she told me that she was running late because of her meeting with her case manager and because she had to take the bus she was going to be late picking up her son. It was really difficult to watch as her son was in college and was going to have to take multiple buses to reach him. As she spoke to him on the phone you could she the disappointment in her. However, She was trying to pull her life together to have a break through and not a break down. It was clear that it was not by choice but by circumstance.
I am not sure what I had envisioned for this experience but my expectations have been surpassed. There was a change that happened when I left that center. I became more aware of my surrounding and also more aware of the reality that homelessness can land itself in the lap of anyone. Homelessness does not know color, age, or gender. All it knows is its ability to strip people of their lives and sometimes even their identities.

-Alyssa Silva


Anonymous Brittnee Wadlington said...


This is very powerful! How enlightening! I wasn't aware of these terrible people. I found it most disturbing to note that these people actually call themselves individuals of God!


February 7, 2011 at 2:24 PM  

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