Come and Imagine with Us

Imagine…

that you are a 65-year-old Vietnam Veteran. You’ve always lived with your mother and helped her around the house. You learn that your mother has cancer, and she has lived for a while through various treatments. One morning, you wake up and learn she has passed away. Shortly afterward, you discover that the home you’ve always lived in with her was in fact not hers. She never owned that home or any property. She was a long-time renter. Grief and shock lead you back to drinking alcohol after years of sobriety, and you are not able to secure the lease for yourself. The landlord decides to sell the property. In the blink of an eye, you have lost everything. Your mother, your home, and your sobriety. Everything is spiraling out of control. You are homeless and find yourself seeking shelter. You are not the stereotype of a homeless alcoholic.

Imagine…

that you are single mother of 2, staying with your sister. Your sister takes you to work and helps with your children. Then your sister’s boyfriend starts to flirt with you, and your sister blames YOU for his attraction. Your sister then demands that you leave her home immediately, and she will no longer provide transportation or watch your children for you. You have an amazing relationship with your grandmother, and she wants nothing more than to be there for you. But, the one thing you need most is housing, and she lives in subsidized senior housing; a place where you and your children cannot go. You’ve been saving some of your money, so you get a hotel room and Uber to work. Within a month, you are out of money and struggling to manage afterschool care on your own. You can’t get to work 3 days in a row because you have no transportation and no one to watch your kids. As a result, you lose your job. You have no family support, and you and your children are now homeless. You are not the stereotype of a mother who doesn’t care about her children or want the best for them.

Imagine…

that you grew up in a large metropolitan area, and you’ve dreamed of working in the tech field. You hear that RTP is the place to be for all things related to technology and medicine. You do some research, apply for a job, have a Skype interview, and secure a job offer. You take your small savings of $2,000 and move to Durham for a fresh start. You arrive to the area and love it. You love the job, are eager to start and feel like you have finally made the best decision for your future. On your first day of work, you get a call telling you there is a delay in adding you to the schedule due to over-hiring. On day 2, you are told the same thing again. On day 3, you are told that you are actually on a waiting list due to a hiring freeze. You decide to apply for other jobs, while hoping to get a call from the job you thought you’d secured. Only, you have no experience other than a very specific technology trade. You haven’t found a back-up job, and you now have no money and no Plan B. You are seeking shelter. You didn’t just move on a whim. You thought you had a great plan in place. You are not the stereotype of a poor planner or someone who doesn’t look before they leap.

             We all have a story behind the façade we present to the world each day. Our stories are filled with challenges, and facing those challenges almost always means the experience of pain and loss. We truly are not that different from our neighbors who seek help at UMD. But we must hold that truth in tension with the reality that many of us are more insulated from those challenges resulting in our becoming literally homeless. The best human response is to give thanks, practice affirming our own experiences of pain and loss, and extending compassion. But we must begin to walk towards advocacy. The type of advocacy that acknowledges that our safety nets and other worldly privileges can shield us from being unable to imagine the lived experience of someone who is like us, but different than us. Their experiences may be unimaginable to us, but when we stop to hear it holding the tension of how we are alike and how we are different, we can begin to see the world and other people anew. Changing our frame of reference and understanding is how we can then begin to imagine how someone can become homeless. And as John Lennon once sang, we can then begin to imagine a “world that will live as one.”

Empty Bowls FAQs

Empty BowlsThis year marks the 14th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for Urban Ministries of Durham. Not only is it our largest fundraising event, but it is an opportunity to feel the solidarity of our community working together toward our mission to end homelessness and fight poverty by offering food, shelter and a future to neighbors in need.

Where did Empty Bowls get started?

In 1990 a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students solve a problem.  They were searching for a way to raise funds to support a food drive.  What evolved was a class project to make ceramic bowls for a fundraising meal.  Guests were served a simple meal of soup and bread, and were invited to keep the bowl as a reminder of hunger in the world.  By the following year the originators had developed this concept into Empty Bowls, a project to provide support for food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations that fight hunger. UMD held its first Empty Bowls event in 2007. We outgrew the Durham Armory and had to move across the street to the Durham Convention Center. Today nearly 1000 people attend Empty Bowls each year raising well over $100,000.

What happens at Empty Bowls?

Each year 15 of Durham’s foodie-favorite restaurants donate 20 gallons of soup for a massive soup competition doled out in 3 oz. samples. A select group of local celebrities make up a Judges panel where they pick a Judge’s Choice winner. Attendees “vote” for their favorite soup with their dollars for the coveted People’s Choice Award.  While event-goers no longer scoop soup out of pottery bowls, buying an upgraded ticket can guarantee you a chance to take home a locally crafted ceramic or wooden bowl. Most folks enjoy milling around the Convention Center while sipping soup, nibbling on bread and dessert, picking out or admiring bowls, and catching up with friends.

What types of tickets are available?

Soup tickets ($25) are basic entry tickets. Soup and bowl tickets ($50) allow you to sample soup and pick out one of the regular ceramic bowls. Hot Tickets ($75) get you early bird entry to pick out your bowl 30 minutes before the crowd hits. And Premier Tickets ($125) gets you early entry to pick out a professionally-crafted, high-end bowl. Kids 6 and under get in free! Tickets will go on sale January 31st on Eventbrite: https://emptybowls2020.eventbrite.com

Eventbrite charges user fees, is there a way to get around that?

Using Eventbrite is a critical event management tool for a small team—2 full time staff running multiple operations—to sell multiple ticket types to 1000 people and smoothly check-in ticket holders into the event on the big day. The goal of Empty Bowls is to raise as much money as possible to help those receiving assistance at UMD. Without attendees paying the user fees, UMD would have to pay those costs out of pocket. Fees are never fun, but consider it another important way to support UMD.

Ticket prices increased this year, why is that?

This year we wanted to focus on maximizing the increasing popularity of Empty Bowls to raise even more money for our mission. We’re not just feeding the community the night of Empty Bowls, we’re working to raise enough money to cover the nearly 250,000 meals we serve to hungry and homeless people each year in our Community Café.

Can I deduct the cost of tickets on my taxes?

Yes, but you must deduct the cost of any direct benefits you receive (ie. the soup and bowl). Tax deductible amounts for each ticket are as follows: Soup only $17, Regular $25, Hot $50, Premier $62.

What other changes should I expect this year?

Be on the lookout this year for re-usable totes from our presenting sponsor, The Forest at Duke. Use the bag to help carry your bowl and other goodies picked up at the event, and then bring it back to UMD with items needed in our Food Pantry. Each month, UMD provides free groceries and clothing to over 500 eligible households. The overwhelming majority of these households are young families. Recipients are given re-usable bags to carry their food which serves as a reminder that their community is here to help feed them when they have a need.

 

2019: Best Moments at UMD

Ahead of this year’s staff holiday party, staff members took some time to reflect on some of the most meaningful, impactful moments that happened here at the shelter in 2019. As we reflect on the past year, we want to share some of these beautiful, behind-the-scenes glimpses of hope for a new future that happened with your support.new-year-3672872_1920

–Feeling excited for a cancer patient moving out of the shelter into permanent housing. Not only does she have a home, but she’s able to share space with her spouse.

–It’s the little things. Maybe someone just asks for something as simple as one pair of socks or a hat. People remember when you do something small for them. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you made a difference. One lady in particular came back and thanked me and now she says ‘hello’ to me every time I see her.

–A man who had been homeless for 30-40 years went from sleeping outside UMD to signing his lease on Friday the 13th!

–Helping a client who came from prison. He wanted to work but had no hope that he would be hired again given his history. We were able to get him a federal bonding letter and connect him to other resources. Having hope he could provide for himself meant he dumped drugs and now has a full-time job.

–A shelter client stopped me in the parking lot to show off a hand towel set she had purchased a month before at the Dollar Store. She bought it to symbolize her hope to get out of shelter and have her own home. And that hope was realized! She was getting ready to move into her new place.

–One of our clients was overwhelmed by multiple debts. We looked up her credit score together and were able to create payment plans with collection agencies. She’s now faithfully paying down those debts and saving for housing by being very vigilant with her finances.

–A few times a year, a former client will return to donate clothing or food items to the shelter. Even if it is something small like a can of soup they bought on a 2 for 1 special, it’s their motivation and gratitude that resonate deeply. They share that they want to donate to help others get back on their feet because UMD was a place that helped them when they needed it.

Thank you for being the backbone of the hopeful moments that often seem to miraculously occur at UMD. We look forward to all that we can accomplish together with your help in 2020!

Seasonal Workers

Seasonal workers“Help wanted.” It’s not roadside Sharpie scrawl on discarded cardboard, but corporate lettering on official promotional signage nestled among holiday decorations. Businesses are hiring, but just for “the season.” It’s almost hard to remember that ‘Black Friday’ is about profit margins for the year rather than risking a black eye from an early morning brawl for the latest “it” toy or heavily discounted television. Cramming in the need to make it financially for the year in a matter of weeks is big business that means extra help at the checkout counter, the customer service help desk, on the stock floor, or driving the delivery truck. These temporary hires are supposedly what help keep us consumers happy, and they’re the elves that keep Santa (and CEOs) in business. All of this extra movement of people and goods is part of the “bustle” of our holidays. And this year, the labor market needs a lot more workers to make the holidays happen.

But there is quite the bustle here at UMD too. Close to 30% of our Workforce Clients who have an over-the-table job are currently involved in this “seasonal work.” Wake-up times are set throughout the early morning hours for workers to make their way from the homeless shelter to work. While they must skip hot breakfast served in the Café at 8am, clients can pick up to-go lunch bags or reserve a late plate for dinner before boarding GoTriangle’s earliest buses. And for some, those meals are extra precious when they have to spend what little they have to catch an Uber because bus schedules or routes don’t meet their needs.

While clients are fatigued by early rising or working double or even triple shifts, many are also energized by these opportunities. Excited to finally land a job after working on résumés and applications with our Workforce Development team, they are hoping that this temporary work gives them a chance to prove their worth or establish much-needed work history. For others, it is a difficult step down from once holding a steady job that gave meaning and identity but is crucial to getting a foot in the door.  At a minimum, such an audition can enable them to become “qualified” for entry-level work, rather than being dismissed as “overqualified.”

But all of our clients are left to wonder what the end of the season will bring. Was all the hustle and bustle, grinning and grunting worth their sweat? Did less than $15 an hour working around the clock bring in what they need to be able to exit into permanent housing? How will they manage the money they’ve earned, weighing the desire to participate in the holidays by spending money on themselves or others vs. saving for a future that feels distant and unsustainable? Will they get a chance to remain on the job after they’ve proven themselves, or were they just expendable parts needed temporarily to power an outsized commercial machine—a machine which we are often complicit in with or without our awareness?

These questions are uncomfortable to sit with. And certainly that much more difficult to square with vulnerable people eager for employment and hoping to find dignity in their work. Imagine and dream with us about what a hopeful future could look like. Can you envision a world where more individuals could secure a job or pursue a career that excited them beyond a paycheck? A society where all workers felt assured that the money they brought home was “enough” to provide for the basics? What changes and priority shifting would it take for us to make strides toward an economy where all workers were encouraged to reach their full potential? Is this even a shared dream? Difficult questions to ponder. But they’re definitely on our mind this holiday season.

Alternative Gift Giving Guide

Alternative Gift GivingTired of racking your brain each year trying to pick out gifts for your adult family members? Try some of these gifts that give back to UMD.

Gift collection rather than gift exchange

Instead of exchanging gifts with friends and family this year, collect items that will benefit folks experiencing homelessness. You can collect some of the “presents” we’re gifting to adults this year or help fill up the toy shop for UMD parents to “shop” for their children. While there is a deadline for the gifts, it’s always great for groups to collect homewares for move-outs kits, providing newly housed clients with items to pick out to supply their new home with basic necessities.

Donate Together

Pool your money and make a gift to UMD. Are you or one of your family members more interested in a gift that is more specific? Make your gift through our GoFundMe campaign to raise private Rapid Rehousing funds so that UMD staff can slash barriers for a person trying to get into housing.

Make a Memorial gift

The holidays are a sentimental time. Memorial gifts are a great way to still include a loved one who was once a part of your holiday celebrations. Make a gift here.

Patronize UMD supporters on Small Business Saturday

At UMD, we have an amazing community of supporters. On Small Business Saturday, take your business to a place that gives back to the local community. Check out the following:

Bulldega

Joe Van Gogh

Merge Records

9th Street Dance

Sacred Mandala

Vaguely Reminiscent (Dec. 2-13, 25% of clothing and shoe sales go to the non-profit of your choice)

Vert & Vogue

Visit a Holiday Fair

UMD will be represented at a number of local holiday fairs.

Dec 1st: Bright Spirits holiday market at Motorco, 12-6pm. A suggested donation of at least $5 gets you in the door. Entry donations directly support UMD.

You can also check out Advent Fairs at Immaculate Conception (before and after mass on December 7th and 8th) and First Presbyterian Church (after the 11am Sunday service on Dec. 8th), where you can purchase holiday cards supporting UMD.

Buy pottery or wooden crafts or take a class from the bowlmakers for our annual Empty Bowls Fundraiser

Chapel Hill Community Center Studio

Chapel Hill Woodturners (https://sites.google.com/site/chapelhillwoodturners/home)

Claymakers – close to MotorCo in Durham (https://www.claymakers.org/)

Durham Arts Council – located at Northgate Mall (http://www.durhamarts.org/classes_claystudio.html)

Sertoma Studio Potters (https://raleighnc.gov/places/sertoma-arts-center)

Woodturners Guild of NC

There are so many ways to give this season. Thank you for thinking outside the traditional holiday box to make a difference above and beyond annual giving.