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At this exact moment in time there are hundreds of volunteers roaming the streets of NYC looking for homeless people to share a meal with, people for whom to provide medical attention, clothes, even a bed tonight. They are coordinated by an alliance of organizations whose collective mission is to serve the homeless in our city. This event is called Don’t Walk By.

Last week this mission was launched from a church in Harlem, where hundreds of homeless individuals were directed to be served and to share in hospitality and community. I was among the hospitality volunteers outfitting the homeless with better coats, blankets, new socks, underwear and toiletries. It was an honor to bless them and be blessed by them for my third consecutive year.

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Don’t Walk By is an annual event that reaches out to the city’s homeless population each year for four or five weeks in the harshest bitter cold of winter. It is a volunteer effort and much of the materials and resources are donated. They also need money to mobilize the effort.

For these reasons and many more, I have made Don’t Walk By NYC homeless outreach one of the recipients for my Zombie Music Campaign for peace and justice. Please click on this link for more details and to contribute to DWB and other organizations working toward peace and justice as they serve “the least of these” in NYC and beyond.

Thanks!

Gio


Running late on a freezing Saturday afternoon in February; headed to Bethel Gospel Assembly in central Harlem; I was to meet 279 other volunteers for the 2011 Don’t Walk By outreach – a literal search and rescue mission which canvasses every city block in Manhattan over five consecutive Saturdays in January and February each year, ultimately welcoming the homeless to a warm, loving environment. 

I had participated the year before, walking the streets of Harlem with a group of about eight volunteers, keeping our eyes peeled for homeless people – wherever we may find them. If we saw someone we suspected might be homeless, we were to approach and invite them to join us at the host church where they could share a meal, receive medical attention, find a warm bed for the night (perhaps longer), detox, and even be enrolled in a rehab or counseling program if they so desired. 

Don’t Walk By is a faith-based outreach orchestrated by the NYC Rescue Alliance, an affiliation of eight missional organizations serving the poor in New York City. While the Rescue Alliance certainly cares about the spiritual needs of the homeless, their first priority in DWB has always been to meet immediate physical needs – to get the homeless off the freezing winter streets, to put a warm meal in their bellies, to remove the shackles of addiction. 

To their credit, DWB acknowledges the complexity of the challenges that homeless people face. They then attempt to meet those needs, to help any acquiescing homeless persons to comprehensively and holistically overcome their plights. Their strategy of volunteer canvassing and engagement has proven to be quite effective. This year alone [2011] there was a total of 1400 volunteers, 900 people engaged on the streets, and over 500 hosted at the base churches.

In addition:

•  161 homeless folks were assessed by resource/medical teams
•  83 were transported to beds
•  4 were transported to hospitals for emergency care
•  3 were transported to detox

These are all great results from the efforts of the Rescue Alliance and the DWB volunteers. We celebrate each person that was rescued from the merciless winter streets.
 


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