Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Teaching the Homeless to Read

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the homeless...I'm not sure why. I see a homeless person on the street, and emotions of empathy surface...emotions of suffering (not just physical), emotions of lost opportunity, and emotions of unlocked potential. We all have a lot to offer, but some, due to misfortune, do not have the opportunity to convey that potential...at least for now.

I often see the homeless at the Salt Lake City public library (where it's warm during the winter months and cool during the summer months) standing next to bookshelves with open books in hands. I wonder if these individuals really know how to read...or if they are simply staring at the symbols on the pages trying to make meaning (or pretending to make meaning).

As this thought has passed through my mind on a number of occasions, I have felt a desire to teach the homeless how to read. In my search to determine how to make that goal a reality, I was pointed to the Food and Care Coalition in Provo, Utah. I was invited to work with a sixty-year-old gentleman who is not homeless, but who is unable to read and, therefore, unable to find employment. I have blogged about my experiences tutoring him before (see "On the Journey to Read" and "Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers"). The last time I went to tutor him at the Food and Care Coalition, I was given a tour of the building by Brent Crane, Executive Director of the Food and Care Coalition. I was very impressed with the facilities, the vision, and the services provided. Brent is the "brain child" behind the design of the building and vision of the organization, and his colleagues and volunteers have played (and continue to play) a huge role in implementing the programs offered.

Services offered include the following:
Barber shop
Dental clinic
Educational programs
Three meals a day
Access to computers
In the future: a residence hall

I am looking forward to continuing volunteer work with this organization to help others unlock, or rediscover, their potential. We all have much to offer...

(See also my post on Teaching Literacy to Homeless Children.)

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