Archive for the ‘Donna Reeves’ Research and Insights on Homelessness’ Category

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ImagePhoto by Donna Reeves Summer 2013

My Key West internship is drawing to an end as I finish the final three weeks of work.  Yesterday afternoon I sat at the  food pantry intake desk awaiting the next client.  I looked up to see an elderly lady standing in the lobby. At first it appeared her dress was ripped on the side. As she drew closer it became apparent the dress had a side zipper but was a bit too tight for closure. The Haitian grandma stood at the intake office door and pointed down at her feet. Her face screwed into something like a grimace as she explained to me that she had no shoes. I looked down at her bare feet and at the dress that was too small. I wondered if someone had hurt her or taken her things. We walked back to the clothes distribution area and she began trying on shoes. I looked through the women’s clothes hanging on the racks and showed a few of them to her. She found a  pair of donated shoes and three articles of clothing and left saying, “Thank You Mommy,” and smiling at me on her way out.

Where were her shoes?

Her rich open way reminded me of my Grandmomma and I love her very much.

Working at S.O.S. has given me a close look at extreme poverty. This sweet lady touched my heart. Seeing her standing there at the intake office threshold without her shoes renewed my focus. I want to work harder to help people. The Bible says there will always be poverty, but we can make things better for people. I want to understand and find strong viable solutions. God is watching us and waiting to see what we will do. -Love from Donna


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Photo By Donna Reeves Summer 2013

Written By Donna Reeves
Key West paradise offers sun, sand and an elaborate night life to all who seek it. Thousands arrive here every year to escape the cold and bask in the tropical sun. Not everyone will be staying in the posh hotels and homes that line the sun baked streets, however.Riches and oppression bask together in the lavish Key West atmosphere. Many are homeless, disadvantaged, impoverished and disillusioned. The dream of living, working and becoming a part of the island scene is often charred by the burning sun or washed away with the tide.

Homeless sleeping on the beaches is not an unfamiliar scene in Key West. I was out for a morning bike ride last week and arrived early at the beach to find sleeping homeless not yet up with the sun. It is not as intimidating as one might imagine. It is just terribly sad.

Photo by Donna Reeves
Tourist and locals seem not to mind the interaction. That is good I suppose. The beaches belong to all of us. The segregation of classes is obvious but all go about their daily business of beaching and sunbathing. Some have spent thousands to play here and others lost everything and came to sleep on the beaches instead of in a colder climate. Part of my research here will include interviewing some members of the homeless population, vacationers and locals.

The homeless resources are nearly as abundant in Key West as are the hotels and taxi services. Supply and demand drives them all. I am inclined to believe that some of the homeless come here for the food and digs. I don’t mean that in a bad way. We are assigned as human beings to help one another. I hope they find the best of every thing. It just appears that because of the dramatic number of homeless in Key West, the city and outreach sources have worked at a more efficient level than in some other cities. I will investigate that theory in my Key West research. The homeless outreach centers are working long hours to find ways to accommodate and mobilize the homeless.

When I say mobilize, I do not mean they are working to ship them out. NO NO. There is one island outreach center here that provides bus tickets to people who have opportunities for jobs and a better life in another place. But they adhere to very strict guidelines. They are not working to send these folks from one bad situation to another. They cannot be leaving with the promise of another homeless shelter to move to. They must have hope for work and a  person on the receiving end of the bus line who will agree to take responsibility for them. If these people don’t have a plan to improve or a better place to go they are encouraged to just work things out here utilizing the available resources. The mobilization means that the Key West helping sources are working to improve the lives of the Key West homeless by meeting their needs and finding ways to improve their employ ability and sustainability.

There are new plans on the horizon for the Key West sun baked homeless. A new homeless shelter is being built and I hope to take a tour in the next few weeks. My interview with directors of the outreach facilities begin tomorrow and I am hopeful of the outcomes. Sleep well and dream of many solutions.-Donna


CEDAR BLUFF, VIRGINIA* (Photo credit: gobucks2)

As promised my research for part of the rest of my ENG 380 class will include a study of the homeless in Berea Ky where my college is. I talked to a few people and did a little bit of research to begin this process.

I spoke with Dr. Margaret Dotson, Professor of Child and Family Studies at Berea College on the subject of homelessness in Appalachia. She told me that it is difficult to realize the extent of homelessness in the region because family and friends are willing to allow their homes and possibly a camper trailer to ease the suffering of a family member. We discussed the fact that some of these mountain people are also camping in the mountains away from public view.(Dotson, 2013)

Dr. Dotson sent me an article from Rural Mental Health,  ” In Rural areas, fewer individuals fit the ‘typical’ profile of homelessness, including sleeping ‘on the streets’ or in shelters; instead, many individuals and families without money ‘double up’ sleep in tents or live in other nontraditional settings such as abandoned vehicles(National Coalition on Homelessness, 2009a; Robertson et al, 2007). “These marginalized living situations have led to increased use of the moniker ‘hidden homeless’ to refer to people experiencing homelessness in rural areas”(Sherry R. Shamblin, 2012).

A cab driver in Berea,KY told me recently that the panhandlers in the city are not homeless. They live in the hotel(Driver, 2013). If they are panhandling daily  to pay  for a hotel room it seems to me an indication of an unstable situation if not the exact definition of homelessness.

About two weeks ago a lady stood on the corner in front of our McDonalds holding a sign requesting money donations. I purchased a McDonald’s gift card for her and asked if she was homeless. She said no, she and her boyfriend had a broken car and were trying to raise enough money to return home. I gave her a few dollars to help fix her car and left her to the work of collecting more money.

This is HUD’s definition of homelessness:

  • “People who are living in a place not meant for human habitation, in emergency shelter, in transitional housing, or are exiting an institution where they temporarily resided. The only significant change from existing practice is that people will be considered homeless if they are exiting an institution where they resided for up to 90 days (it was previously 30 days), and were in shelter or a place not meant for human habitation immediately prior to entering that institution.
  • People who are losing their primary nighttime residence, which may include a motel or hotel or a doubled up situation, within 14 days and lack resources or support networks to remain in housing. HUD had previously allowed people who were being displaced within 7 days to be considered homeless. The proposed regulation also describes specific documentation requirements for this category.
  • Families with children or unaccompanied youth who are unstably housed and likely to continue in that state. This is a new category of homelessness, and it applies to families with children or unaccompanied youth who have not had a lease or ownership interest in a housing unit in the last 60 or more days, have had two or more moves in the last 60 days, and who are likely to continue to be unstably housed because of disability or multiple barriers to employment.
  • People who are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, have no other residence, and lack the resources or support networks to obtain other permanent housing. This category is similar to the current practice regarding people who are fleeing domestic violence”(Brief, 2012).

This is a brief tour of rural homelessness in the Appalachian region. I will investigate more of the causes of homelessness in the area and further investigate homelessness in the city of Berea,KY.

The following link is to a poem   The Unopened Gas Station of My Homeless Appalachia By Bret R. Crabrooke 

Homeless and down and out. I guess there is a difference but the line is thin. Rural Appalachia and the city of Berea have a different way of doing things than people in the cities. I will talk to some more people in the area and see what else I can find.


Brief, F. P. (2012, January 18). National Alliance to End Homelessness. Retrieved March 24, 2013, from

Dotson, D. M. (2013, March). (D. Reeves, Interviewer)

Driver, U. C. (2013, March). (D. Reeves, Interviewer)

Sherry R. Shamblin, N. F. (2012). Conceptualizing Homelessness in Rural Appalachia: Understanding Contextual Factors Relevant to Community Mental Health Practice. Rural Mental Health, 3.