One Step Away: Helping to end homelessness in Philadelphia

I walk through Center City Philadelphia several times a day. I ride at least 8 trains or buses every day. I also see more homeless people than I can possibly count. I’m asked for change as I walk out of the El station. I see people with signs outside of the many stores down Market Street. I see people sleeping on grates and the train station stairways. I’ve been seeing all of this for 16 years. I’ve not become immune to it.

It’s an awkward dilemma that I find myself in on a daily basis. I certainly don’t prescribe to the notion that everyone on the streets is a drug addict who just needs to get clean. I also don’t discount that there are those who do fit that description. I remember the woman I used to see every day before and after school. Every day she would ask me for money for food. Every day I would offer her what I had left over from my lunch, usually cans of soda and unopened Tasty Kakes or crackers. Every day she would rudely decline. I also remember those who I’ve handed sandwiches and coffee to when I’ve walked out of Wawa’s and 7-11’s. I remember their gratitude. My liberal bleeding heart is often contending with a city girl’s cynicism. And sometimes it damn near breaks me.

Do I want to help everyone that I see? Of course, I do. But I don’t always know if what I’m doing is going to help or hurt someone, and when you pass a dozen people with signs and change cups every day, how do you decide who to help?

A few months ago, as I was getting off the bus, I heard a man yelling on the corner, “One Step Away, help homeless women and children! One Step Away, $1.00 to help homeless women and children!” I had never heard of this before, so I stood by the nearest building to smoke a cigarette and I looked up “One Step Away” on my phone. It was what I had thought it was: a newspaper to help the people without jobs or homes in Philadelphia. I had seen something similar the last time I was in New York, but I thought there was something special about the Philadelphia paper.

There are 26 similar papers across the United States. What makes One Step Away different?  Almost all of the content is written by people who reside in Philadelphia shelters. I bought the paper that day, and every day that I have seen it sold since. It is extremely enlightening to read stories from that perspective. And it’s given me quite a bit to think about. There have been occasions in my life where I had to “crash” at someone’s place because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was lucky to have those people in my life. What if they weren’t there? What would have happened to me? Those people were my “one step away”.

I applaud the men, women, and children who put this paper together and sell it on the street. They are working hard to help themselves and have in the process helped me. They’ve inspired me to get involved. I’ve emailed the editor of the paper and offered my time in any way that it could be used. I am looking forward to helping make a change . . . to, in some small way, helping my fellow human beings . . . to making a positive difference in the world around me . . . and to growing as person while I do it.


One response to this post.

  1. Who ever thought this up is a genius…Not only does it give the homeless a voice, it also allows them to feel like a part of society — earning a wage for a service rendered….


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