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“I often find myself at a loss for words in the face of their enthusiastic thank-you’s because, to be completely honest, it’s hard to react when people are so appreciative when being provided with something as simple as a hot meal.”

“I often find myself at a loss for words in the face of their enthusiastic thank-you’s because, to be completely honest, it’s hard to react when people are so appreciative when being provided with something as simple as a hot meal.”

The Responsibility of Awareness

Sami Brisson, a peace and justice studies major in Regis College, reflects on how ethics played a role in her time volunteering at The Gathering Place, a Denver support center for women, children and transgendered individuals experiencing homelessness.

It’s 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and, with other Regis University students, staff and faculty, I’m bustling about the kitchen of The Gathering Place, making sure we’re ready to cater to the needs of the hungry women beginning to arrive. This trip has become a monthly experience for me and a few other regular volunteers – waking up before the sun to help serve a fresh, hot breakfast to the homeless women in and around downtown Denver.

The Gathering Place is the city’s only daytime, drop-in shelter for women and transgendered individuals experiencing homelessness and a volunteer and internship site for several of Regis’ Peace & Justice Studies students. In many cases, the women look tired and hungry, but all of them are filled with delight and gratitude at our presence.

I often find myself at a loss for words in the face of their enthusiastic thank-you’s because, to be completely honest, it’s hard to react when people are so appreciative when being provided with something as simple as a hot meal.

The fact that, in our society, these kinds of basic human rights are viewed as a privilege within certain demographics speaks volumes about our misplaced priorities.

When I speak with the women who visit The Gathering Place, it is clear they are no more or less worthy of having these basic needs met than the men and women who surround me when I sit down for lunch in Regis’ cafeteria.


"Creating bonds with the women at The Gathering Place is not something I do because they need me, but because, in having the ability to make some small difference in their lives, I have an obligation to do so."

Our society seems to possess a plethora of problematic misconceptions about homelessness. Especially in Denver, where this population is so large, we can’t afford to continue to write them off as irresponsible people incapable of taking care of themselves. Many of these women are experiencing homelessness as a result of being victimized by the rise of rent in the Denver area or because they have left circumstances of domestic abuse, which, in both cases, could happen to anyone.

One of the things that attracted me to Regis was its emphasis on education through service and community involvement. As a middle-class person with the privilege of higher education, I can never fully comprehend what it means to be homeless, but The Gathering Place allows me to deepen my understanding of this issue and grow in my belief in the importance of all members of our society being adequately taken care of and provided for.

This support is a great need and, if in our present societal paradigm, we cannot fulfill this need, it is clear it is necessary we do some collective reevaluating. Furthermore, if I, personally, was aware of the difficulties these women experience and did not do some small part in easing these challenges, I would also need to do some serious re-evaluating.

Creating bonds with the women at The Gathering Place is not something I do because they need me, but because, in having the ability to make some small difference in their lives, I have an obligation to do so. Through my time spent with these women, my passion for social justice and my belief in human dignity has greatly deepened, for which I feel such gratitude towards these women.

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