Bev's Silent Warriors Story
From Bev McKinley, Founder
It all started when…
Silent Warriors collects and provides items of need to homeless citizens of The Upper Valley, a part of our communities that is silent and yet very much present. We currently focus on the needs of those who live outdoors or “surf” living accommodations alone, however we can provide any needs to families that are having to live in the outdoors as well.
Simply put, there is a significant population of homeless citizens of which most of us are not aware. They are among us, shopping at the COOP, waiting for the bus, looking for parking, reading the newspaper for jobs, walking the trails between points, living out of sight, living out of mind, living without a roof over their head. Some are suffering from temporary losses and setbacks. Some are suffering from mental illnesses that result in chronic marginalization in our communities. But the sudden smiles I see on their faces when we recognize them and offer help and assistance in the simplest ways is a glimpse into a profoundly vulnerable part of us all. We are all one tragedy away from joining them in this world.
By providing basic needs to those without homes, we build a foundation for hope for a home someday. We “market” our services through local community list-serves, publicity in local media like the Valley News articles that have been written about our effort, social media presence on Facebook, Linkedin and other sites. We affiliate and collaborate with other key social and business entities that are directly or indirectly involved in the solution to the problem.
But the key to our effectiveness is a real grass-roots approach of engagement with homeless citizens. Where are they, who are they, what is happening TODAY in the woods and camps and hidden havens out of sight. Outreach is the key.
By March, 2013, generous donors had provided my effort with over 100 sleeping bags and nearly 20 tents. Talking to homeless folks, it became apparent that personal hygiene items were scarce and costly. I began to collect items for Personal Hygiene Packs with items like shampoo, razors, bug spray, sunblock, etc. to distribute to those in need. Economic assistance like foodstamps don’t allow for purchase of toiletries, items that enhance our homeless’ folks sense of self-esteem and inclusion.
Now that Spring has arrived, we have begun to answer the need for bicycles for transportation, and received our first two bicycles from a kind Enfield donor.
Silent Warriors is at a threshold. While I feel fortunate to have been a conduit between generous local people and those with dire needs living without a home, solo operations is not sustainable. The need is growing and the desire to give…the awakening donor community…is growing day by day. My dream is that the organization can build the infrastructure to take my efforts with Silent Warriors to the next level. I am confident from what I have seen of the rising awareness in the Upper Valley of the suffering of homeless citizens, that the Upper Valley community will help me create a lasting source of hope for the homeless.
My strategy is to increase our capacity by:
• Identifying a Volunteer Coordinator to organize expanded outreach
• Finding Non-Profit status
• Obtain infrastructure for information search and dissemination in relevant media
• Begin focus on how best create a sustainable economic organization