There’s a process. It’s called conversion.
Jonathan Ramirez class of 2018 at the College of Mount Saint Vincent (New York) has been working tirelessly to tackle the homeless epidemic in New York City.
Every Tuesday during the academic year, and occasionally during the summer, Mr. Ramirez rounds up a few other students and heads down to Manhattan, where they assemble bag lunches for distribution to the homeless in Grand Central Station. Inside the echoing marble halls of the vast terminal, the students head straight to an atrium, somewhat removed from the tourists and commuters, that has become a gathering place for people with no place to live.
Students set out the bag lunches on a few small tables, and those in need quickly join and begin eating. The volunteers introduce themselves, sit with their visitors as they eat, ask about their lives, and share stories. When they are finished, the students move on to other areas of the terminal and the surrounding streets, looking for any others who might need a meal.
It was a First Year Experience seminar that opened Mr. Ramirez’s eyes to the plight of people whose circumstances can take an unexpected and dire turn, rendering them homeless. The process began there.
I used to believe that if you were homeless, you were either an alcoholic or a drug addict,” he says. “But since I’ve begun working and conversing with homeless people, it’s completely changed my outlook.
Mr. Ramirez has done his share of volunteering with Midnight Runs and soup kitchens, but this program, he says, is different. “Our purpose is more than just giving them food. We try to show them that someone cares. The conversation they have with us might be the first one they’ve had all week.”
Read the rest of the story and the process that led more students learn about Grand Central Outreach, a process that can help others say #IamVincent, and a program continues to grow.