Arts/ Ent. Ops. Editor
Sophomore Nadia Abraibesh is one of a growing number of Linfield community members joining the Yamhill Community Action Partership’s work to end the county’s homelessness in 10 years.
Abraibesh said she learned about the committee last year after being assigned a research paper in Topics in Helping Professions, taught by counselor Dawn Williamson.
Abraibesh said she has always been interested in the issue of youth homelessness. After interviewing Jessica Denison, the partnership’s homeless youth outreach coordinator, and sitting in on a committee meeting, she decided to carry on with her work after the semester was over.
Abraibesh has become an official member of the committee, working specifically to organize a county-wide home-less count.
In January, she and other members went to the Gospel Rescue Mission’s cold weather shelter to hand out basic information to those at the shelter and get a count of its residents.
The volunteers set out to find out how many members were in each family, how many kids were living in the shelter and what led to their homelessness, whether it be drug and alcohol abuse or otherwise.
Though this work was only a preliminary stage in YCAP’s plan, Abraibesh said she is already greatly affected by the people she has met.
“It’s sad seeing kids getting so excited about the possibility of a home,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking (and) gives you a different perspective when you see little kids who don’t quite comprehend they’re homeless.”
She said an important realization she had was people do not choose to be homeless, and though they may be trying hard to help their situation, it is often too difficult.
The results of this initial shelter count will allow YCAP to get an idea of the funding it will take to en-act its plan.
Other Linfield students will get a chance to work with these results too, as those in the Sociology of Community class will discuss the trends of shelter use shown in these forms.
The course is taught by Assistant Professor of Sociology Robert Gardner, who became a member of the YCAP committee himself this summer while preparing material for the class.
“I was meeting with partner organizations to generate student service learning opportunities, and I found myself getting involved personally in the homeless count,” he said.
Next January, YCAP will conduct a full homeless count including those not living in area shelters, as the figures the initial survey collected do not fully represent the county’s homeless population.
“One of the problems with counting rural homeless is that most are living in places other than the shelters,” Gardner said. “They are couch surfing, staying with friends or family or sleeping in abandoned buildings, among other places.”
This count will help YCAP have a better understanding of what causes homelessness and how it can be helped.
On a personal level, Abraibesh said YCAP has had an effect on her life in more ways than one.
“It’s a sad thing to think people don’t have homes when I do, and it’s cool to be a part of something to try and change that,” she said.
She said her involvement has helped her understand how isolated Linfield is, and how this issue goes largely ignored by students.
“I’ve learned that homelessness goes unnoticed: Out of sight, out of mind,” she said. “We have the potential to help out a lot.”
Abraibesh, a psychology major, said she has thought about getting a doctorate in her field. Because of her volunteer work, she is now considering social work as an option as well.
“I know I could (get) really consumed and feel like I could never do enough,” she said. “There’s always people to help.”