By Kim Charlson
As I sat in my living room contemplating the fact that the mortgage on my home, where I have lived for nearly 30 years, will be paid off totally, I took a moment to enjoy the fact that having a home that is totally paid off is a very rare thing in our country, and among our blindness community. Then I started thinking about the housing issues I have assisted individuals who are blind who have reached out to me for help with over the past several months, which makes me realize that housing is a real concern for our community.
As one example, there is the woman who called me, nearly in tears, asking me to help her find pro bono legal assistance, because if she didn’t get some help, she was certainly going to lose her apartment. I was able to connect her to an attorney. Since her promise was to call me back if the attorney wasn’t able to help, and I haven’t heard back, that leads me to hope all was successful. I’ll know when I see her at our next convention.
And there is the other extreme, the service provider that asked for assistance with a blind person in the medical homeless shelter. Why was he in a medical care homeless shelter as a blind person? Just imagine for a moment the chaos and confusion, and ever-changing nature of a homeless shelter. Rooms convert from dining rooms to sleeping areas, and furniture doesn’t stay in the same place for more than 30 minutes. People sit on the floors, stairs, stand about, and are everywhere. Inadvertently bumping or touching others in that setting isn’t always understood and accepted. So, the facility determined that for his safety, he would be better served in the medical care homeless shelter unit. I couldn’t argue much with that assessment. However, my ultimate goal was to get the agency and the consumer connected with appropriate services from the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. I was able to make the right connections, and the agency and the consumer are now in the process of meeting with rehabilitation staff to plan out a program for training and services that will include a housing plan and residential rehabilitation training to learn the skills of blindness.
So, when people ask me “Why do you belong to ACB, and what good does it do anyway?” I tell some of these stories, and I always think of the many other stories every one of you can tell about your own advocacy activities. We do what we do to help people who are blind, and hopefully, those people will turn around and help others and it will all be paid forward. It isn’t for the big bucks or the glamorous outings, but it’s for the heartfelt thank-yous and the hugs of gratitude expressing what a difference the support provided meant to them. Whatever you do, just try helping one person who needs you and your expertise – share your knowledge and experience, try helping them to make their life a bit easier. Share a resource you learned about and have used for a long time, that you know could help someone with their daily life activities. You will make a difference, and it will start a movement just like ACB has started a movement to “Pay it Forward” and make things better for all people who are blind or visually impaired!