Feb 10, 2011

To Build a Homeless
Shelter in Jerusalem

You all probably remember when I was busy pushing DonorsChoose.org, a website where teachers can go to seek funds for classroom projects to help overcome financial difficulties. I'm really big on pushing good causes, because I think that this blog, with its strong and devoted readership, has the ability to really initiate and engage in social change. Thus, enter the Dell Social Innovation Competition, which puts $50,000 into the hands of the creators of a project of true social change.

A second-year logistics students at Bar-Ilan University -- originally from New Jersey -- contacted me about their project: a homeless shelter in Jerusalem, which would make it the only one, believe it or not. These students have been working for the past year to lay the groundwork for this project, which already has posted third place in the Dell and University of Austin Social Innovation Competition.

You can read more here and here -- and you can also get to the voting at both links. If the group is in the top ten by February 18, they'll automatically proceed to the second round, and if they place first, they'll get an additional $1,000, a vital resource if they want to win the $50,000 grand prize.

If you don't have the time to help advertise this great cause, at least take the time to go vote on their project -- it's a noble cause, and social change is worth your time. Just look at these statistics, and then tell me you don't have the time to VOTE.

The rate of homelessness and poverty in Jerusalem is increasing drastically, with 41% of the residents living below the poverty line, as of June 2010. Workforce participation is at 40%. Child poverty in West and East Jerusalem is at 45% and 75%, respectively, and 2/3rd of those suffering from poverty and homelessness are forced to forgo meals on a daily basis.
Let's fix it -- okay?


Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Someone asked some good questions, and I thought I'd share their answers here with you:

I'm not usually one to rock the boat on what seems like a good cause--but I would feel much better about voting for this proposal if there was an endorsement from a Rav or Rabbi.
While I have been in touch with several Rabbis and Poskim throughout the planning stages, public endorsement is something we are working on, and will be granted in the future, once this has graduated from the 'idea' stage to something more substantial such as incorporation. The plan is for it to be run well-within halachic guidlines, although not as a Halachic institution.

It seems to me that a homeless shelter (especially in East Jerusalem) could present quite a few thorny issues. Do they accept Arabs?
Most likely, only due to the situation on the ground, the shelter will most likely be created in West Jerusalem. It will accept Jews, Arabs, Christians, Buddists, and anyone else who is homeless.

Is it mixed (men and women)?
As with most homeless shelters that follow suggested security procedures, the shelter will be mixed, with separate rooms/showers/etc for men and women. Additionally there will be security personnel on active duty at all times.

Is the food kosher?
As we expand our services from offering just shelter to meals as well, we plan to partner with existing Kosher soup kitchens and food distribution channels. Even further down the line, if we decide to offer an in-house solution, the kitchen will be kosher and supervised by a mashgiach.

Are they mechalel Shabbos?
I am unclear to who this is referring to. However, to repeat, the organization will be run halachicly. If there is anyone being mechalel shabbat, it will be a non-jewish security guard (such as is done by most Jewish organizations in israel)

Will the medical unit help young women get abortions?
That is a question I have absolutely no preparation to deal with. In all likelihoods, we would just be working with doctors and donors to get those in need free visits/medication. What the doctor prescribes, and what the patient needs, I dont believe we could or would have any legal/ethical/religious say in.

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