BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — One in 588 Americans are homeless. Almost 200,000 people will be sleeping on the streets tonight.
Now, one woman is using her experience in the tech industry to help change those stats and get people back to work and off the streets. Every night from her window, Erica Robbins, Executive Director of Be A Blessing Birmingham, could see a man sleeping under a bridge.
One day she asked him if he wanted boots or a new coat for Christmas. He said no and instead, “He told me toilet paper and that really hurt me to tears,” said Robbins.
But the tears didn’t go to waste. It prompted her to begin Be A Blessing Birmingham.
Robbins and her volunteers collected donated hygiene items and clothing and gave them to the homeless. Her organization gets no funding and is completely community-donation-based.
“We get all of our donors and volunteers via social media,” said Robbins.
On the monthly basis, she pulls in about $10,000 in donations and on an average blessing day, where she hands out these donations, she helps 200 people. Some of those people include Herbert and Amber.
“I didn’t have anywhere to go, so we slept down there by a firehouse by a garbage can until we used resources that we have thanks to Erica and now we have our own place,” said Herbert.
Robbins said to get started in helping the homeless, do the research. “Start off in the shelter system and see if this type of work is really meant for you,” Robbins suggests.
Also, you have to build trust within the homeless community.
“We don’t want people coming into this work and leaving, cause it’s hurtful,” Robbins said.
Also show compassion and have empathy.
Robbins states that, “We are all one bad situation from being in the same situation.”
Robbins started out with two volunteers. Now she has over 50 and during the holidays, she gets 200 volunteers.
Robbins said she would like to eventually branch out and have a center where people can acquire computer skills and apply for jobs.