Written by Denise Miller, Firesteel Advocacy Coordinator
“Sometimes we get the idea that people that are homeless are bums, vagabonds, people who sit outside and smoke cigarettes,” says Desmond Pullen, a children’s advocate at a family shelter in Everett. “But when I saw children that came, who literally looked lost, and some of them, they were blaming themselves for the family’s homelessness, like, ‘Now what did I do that got us kicked out of the apartment, that got us evicted?'”
Desmond recorded a StoryCorps converesation with his 11-year-old granddaughter, Thandi Vendema, as part of the “Finding Our Way: Puget Sound Stories About Family Homelessness” project. Their interview airs on KUOW’s program “The Record” today; you can also listen to it online.
Desmond told project coordinators he wanted to participate in the project because he sees more and more people seeking shelter, and there is not enough space to house them. More than 32,000 schoolchildren experienced homelessness in Washington state last year.
The stress of homelessness and poverty can take a devastating toll on children. In their interview, Desmond and Thandi talk about how they try to make life a little easier for young people who stay at the shelter.
“I felt maybe I can work with them, so that they don’t believe that they are to blame, that no one really chooses to be homeless,” Desmond says.
Thandi and her friends raise money to buy toys, blankets, and other small comforts for shelter guests.
Desmond’s pride in his granddaughter shines through in their conversation.
“It’s one thing to empathize with people and it’s another thing to do something about it,” he tells her. “So I want to thank you for being so sensitive and also for wanting to help.”
Have the “Finding Our Way” stories inspired you to help families who are experiencing homelessness?
- Start by sharing these stories with your friends, family, and policymakers.
- Advocate for investment in affordable homes and programs that help our most vulnerable neighbors. Send a message to your state lawmakers using this template created by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.
- Check out a list of 10 things you can do to help, compiled by Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness.
Hear more stories
- Listen to more “Finding Our Way” stories produced by StoryCorps on KUOW every Tuesday, now through July 7, or online.
- Find even more “Finding Our Way” stories, produced by Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness and Firesteel, here on the Firesteel website.
- Stream other StoryCorps conversations on the StoryCorps website, or subscribe to the StoryCorps podcast.