I salute the about 150 men and women who showed up to volunteer last Friday, January 5, on the first night of the City-led outreach to homeless persons across Detroit.

They answered the call to join efforts to ensure the homeless don’t continue to endanger their lives in the bitter cold.

The volunteers called designated numbers to report sighting of homeless persons, and with the help of flyers, encouraged such homeless persons to enter the dispatched vans that would bring them to shelters.

I saw some thoughtful parents bringing their children along to teach them the virtue of looking out for one’s neighbors.  Really nice!

Others who weren’t disposed to go to street corners and viaducts to canvass the homeless brought shoes, winter clothes, snacks, coffee and tea instead, which was lovely.

And when the three-night outreach ended on Sunday, January 7, four things were evident:

  1. People are always looking for meaningful opportunities to care for others. The City of Detroit, working in concert with homeless service providers like Detroit Rescue Mission, created such an opportunity. But it doesn’t have to be of government extraction alone. Anybody – including you – can come up with a good initiative that can garner support of the compassionate people of Detroit;
  2. People are willing to sacrifice their comfort and convenience for the sake of others. Remember, the weather was indeed harsh. Several persons had reportedly died in it. Yet, volunteers walked the streets of Detroit looking for homeless persons, passing out flyers and giving hope and help;
  3. Solving difficult problems like homelessness takes communal effort. Everyone has a role to play, and we saw people of different backgrounds play different helpful roles in the weekend volunteer effort; and
  4. There is a growing awareness and understanding that the best way to help homeless persons is not to give them money on the streets but to encourage them to seek help in nearby warming centers/shelters.

From what I saw last weekend, Detroit could well be nicknamed the City of Compassion. It has earned it.

The people of metro Detroit are truly compassionate. And they show it every day in their amazing acts of generosity that make a difference in the lives of homeless veterans, physically challenged seniors, working but poor single moms, children from less fortunate homes, and many others.

I know this because I run a Detroit-headquartered nimble nonprofit that relies on thousands of volunteers and donors to serve over 2200 homeless, hungry and hurting persons each day. Most of these volunteers and donors come from metro Detroit.

In fact, a day hardly passes without us receiving phone calls and social media inquiries from men and women who desire to give their precious time, materials or money to support our various programs. And they don’t come only from the well-to-do class. They also come from the realm of the less privileged.

Some give anonymously. Some give infectiously. Some give to honor departed loved ones. Some give to mark their anniversaries. Some give to honor God.

To me, all of them are extraordinary human beings because they go out of their way to help people they don’t even know.

This is also true of DTE Energy Foundation that kindly gave us $7, 500 to support the outreach, demonstrating once again that it cares about everything Detroit – its people, its present, its progress.

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