by Richard Patrych
JOIN is a Portland based organization that caters to it’s homeless community. At JOIN, you can take a shower, grab some clothes of your choice, get a laundry voucher, eat some breakfast and lunch, get your mail, use the phone, get haircuts, have a room to play with your kids, and even get acupuncture treatments.
What separates this organization from other ones is how easy the process is. JOIN works on a barter point system where they must do chores to gain points so that they could have access to these services. This process is beneficial and sustainable because none of the chores are necessarily difficult, though the overall give and take attitude of the organization as a whole is successful.
On the Tivnu Gap Year, we are split up into different Monday internships. My friend Judah and I have been volunteering at JOIN for the past 4 months. It has been an eyeopening experience for me personally for many reasons. Before volunteering, I had this wrongful negative outlook and judgmental view of most homeless people. I realize this concept was wrong and totally misguided, but I can’t lie and say that those feelings weren’t there. Easing into the volunteer process and atmosphere, it came to realization to me that the majority of the people we encounter are decent, good and genuine people. Ones who have just had a little bit of bad luck in their life. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to listen to some of the member’s life stories or even have little chats about that game last night.
One of most struggling things to see are those around your age walking in there needing what we provide. As a society, we expect to be taking care of until at least 18 and have a smooth transition into furthering our education, but that’s not always the case. These harsh realizations really have you with gratitude for what you have. I plan on doing more volunteer work after this program, and can’t fathom why it took me this long to start in the first place.