Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Alex Gheysens: Homelessness First Hand in Denver

Through a New Lens
By Alex Gheysens

Homelessness is an omnipresent issue in Denver. When I walk to work wearing my suit and tie in the morning, I pass countless homeless people along the sidewalk. Occasionally I will hand out a dollar or some change, foolishly telling myself that was my good deed for the day. How wrong could I be? My dollar could potentially make their day a bit easier, but the next day and the one after, they might not receive someone’s dollar.
            Before I came to Denver, I let Nelson know that I was interested in working with homeless people. When I arrived, he connected me with St. Francis Center, a homeless shelter in Denver. Expecting a small venue with maybe a soup kitchen and some bathrooms, I thought it would be a fairly slow job. However, I was immediately overwhelmed. The space was enormous and there were at least a hundred homeless people hanging out in the main area. St. Francis Center has bathrooms and showers, a laundry facility, a storage system, a mail room, mental health resources, career advisors, a clothes store, and many other services available – ones that I would soon be helping out with.
            When I got my initial tour with Beth, the volunteer coordinator, I mistakenly generalized many of the homeless people. I for sure thought they were all unemployed and had been on the streets for a while. Beth told me that many of them have jobs, families, and were actually very successful in life. Unexpected circumstances just threw obstacles at them that they could not plan for. Each person has their own unique story and holds so much value. It is something that could happen to any of us, really.
            After working some more hours at St. Francis Center, I have developed a deep respect for the community we assist. These folks are so hopeful and ambitious and realize that this is just a part of their story, but definitely not the end. During my time there, I have always been treated respectfully and it has been a joy getting to know everyone. I am starting to encounter some familiar faces on the streets of Denver, and they do not hesitate to greet me.
            Knowing that I am actually making a difference in their lives, something my lousy handouts of change did not do, is a very rewarding experience. Bonita once said that we are all neighbors in Denver. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO, student, or homeless person, we all share this city and need to take care of each other. I can only hope that if I were to ever need this kind of assistance, someone would have my back as well.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Michael Bowden Blogs About Becoming an Adult in Denver, CO

Becoming an Adult
by Michael Bowden

The city is much different than Iowa. For twenty-one years I have been comfortable and familiar to what goes on around me. Living here, even for just the few weeks that I’ve been here, I have experienced some moments, which I know will be life changing for me in the future. I’m originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa and I’m from a family of six. I lived in a busy household and was around people almost constantly. I grew up sharing my bedroom with my brothers and always having some sort of noise bounce through the house weather it be an instrument, someone’s voice, a TV, or my two dogs barking for food. I’ve been comfortable with these noises and close proximity. I decided to live close to my family after high school, but recently I decided to change and try something new. I’m now in Denver, CO, living in my own apartment, cooking my own food, maintaining my schedule of work, internship, my hobbies, goals, and leisure time without my comforts of home.
            Learning to cope with this has been an experience that is moving me in the right direction to prepare for life after Wartburg College. It’s helping me break down the door to see what life has to offer after my entire education, which started for me seventeen years ago in preschool. Adulthood is becoming more of a reality, some of it is scary but if it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t be thinking right. But the scariness, change, or unknown is truly the most exciting part. The city is big, fast-paced, and energizing, but sometimes exhausting. It’s amazing to look at the diverse population while walking around to know that everyone I see has a vastly different story than the other.
            It’s time for me to create my story. In this chapter I’m living in the city. My story didn’t start here but I plan to utilize my time here to grow and help lay a foundation for all the rest of the chapters in my life, my adulthood, a time when I will pay my own phone bill and pay my own rent. After our retreat in Leadville, Colorado, the Wartburg West community here has been more connected. The students and professors really created a bond while we were there. Going into my adulthood and coping with the change, it’s great to know I will always have long-lasting friendships that have been created here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Elizabeth Lockard Shares Wartburg West Experiences

All of the students participating in the Wartburg West program, myself included, moved in just a few days ago.  We have not begun our field experiences or internships yet, but we certainly have had the opportunity to explore the vibrant city of Denver, Colorado.  After a long, cold yet exciting day consisting of a scavenger hunt around the city and a dinner with alumni, a group of us decided to go to a local Belgian beer cafĂ© called the Cheeky Monk just a couple blocks from our apartment complex.  This visit was extra special because we had two Belgians with us. Alex Gheysens is a third year student of Wartburg College and his sister is visiting for the week. It was very interesting to see what they both thought of the menu and atmosphere of the place. We were lucky to have them with us because we not only didn’t recognize the majority of the Belgian beers but pronouncing them properly was nearly impossible. The evening included an intense game of scrabble, tasting a variety of unique beers and a lot of stories. Going to the Cheeky monk was a great opportunity for some of the Wartburg students to get to know each other better and experience something new together.  I’m really looking forward to the rest of the semester with this great group of people. Hopefully Sofie can come back to visit again soon!