Last week I was asked to speak to a group of elementary school kids about homelessness. I’m a parent, so I thought I was prepared to talk frankly to kids about a tough issue.
My years of day-to-day parenting are behind me, but I’ve navigated through some challenging terrain—and not just “stranger danger,” the “sex talk,” and “say no to drugs.” Thanks to MTV’s The Real World series, I discussed misogyny with my 14 year old daughter. New technologies engendered new problems and together we walked through the minefield of instant messaging, texting (and, gasp, sexting!), and social media. Surely I could handle 5 or 10 minutes on homelessness.
I was woefully unprepared.
Standing in front of that classroom at 3 pm on a Wednesday afternoon, I had lots of questions, but few answers. Navigating without a map, with my feeble questions and their honest responses, we made our way to LOVE.
I reassured them that they would always be cared for because they have family and friends who love them. If ever the love of their family and friends isn’t enough, I told them, they are lucky to live in a community where people show their love by giving to and helping others. Because of the love of strangers, they will always be cared for. Finally, I heaped praise on them for showing their love to children who they may never know or meet.
Children are kind. They want to help others. They can make the journey and share the love. These kids are collecting socks and underwear for children experiencing homelessness. I’m proud to know the loving and generous K-Kids of Laurel Oak and their Northside Naples Kiwanis Club mentors.
Each month approximately 200 callers—many with nowhere else to turn—receive vital information and referral to screened and approved human service organizations. A call log also provides valuable information that allows the United Way and others to assess greatest community needs and target resources.
Collier 2-1-1, a United Way administered federally designated phone number, works like 9-1-1, but is for non-emergency calls. It utilizes state-of-the-art technology and expertise to connect callers telephonically to services in Collier County. Individuals, families, and businesses receive comprehensive telephone crisis counseling and information and referral services 24-hours a day, 365-days a year in multiple languages to serve our diverse community. In some areas of Collier County 2-1-1 direct dial in unavailable. However, the seven digit number 263-4211 connects callers in all areas.
Community awareness of 2-1-1 is crucial for its success and effectiveness. Please help by spreading the word to those in need, those with a friend or relative in need, and those who offer assistance to others in need. You can also help by adding a Collier 2-1-1 link to your website, embedding it in your newsletter, and displaying 2-1-1 fliers in your place of business. Visit the 2-1-1 website www.collier211.org to register your organization and to download fliers. For additional materials or to arrange for a 2-1-1 informational presentation, phone the United Way of Collier County at (239) 261-7112.
With your help, Collier 2-1-1 will only improve with time!