When people undertake a project, and they want to make sure it’s done right, one of the tried-and-true approaches is to seek out experts in a field and ask them for insight. That’s what Davie Towbin, a virtual schoolteacher at G. Holmes Braddock High School, did when she wanted to start educating students on homelessness.
Davie and her students created an after-school task force called Direct2Success, where they initially collected plastic bags to be turned into a yarn (“plarn”). She and her students then knit the Plarn into mats and blankets and passed them out to people on the street. “I basically saw the opportunity to make an existing community service project run more effectively and by broadening its focus to include the needs of others in our community.”
After attending a Homeless Awareness Day rally, though, Davie learned of better ways to help those around her. Providing blankets and other items to people on the street can ultimately create hurdles to getting them rehoused. But instead of ending her program, Davie took the initiative to the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. She wanted to know how to use the work her students were doing to create lasting, positive change that helped people experiencing homelessness get off the street. This has blossomed into a lasting relationship with the Homeless Trust.
“My students, through the support provided from the Homeless Trust, have designed an action plan that educates their peers and organizes activities throughout the school year that align with the county-wide campaign to end homelessness,” said Davie. “We are always collecting essential items to donate to shelters. During the holidays, we complete gift-giving projects where we deliver gifts, Easter baskets, stuffed stockings, and more to over 80 Pre-K students at the Homeless Trust’s Homeless Assistance Center in Homestead, which is operated by Chapman Partnership. We even continue to make our PLARN mats for the homeless, but now we give them as part of the move-in kits that are provided to households provides when they are placed into permanent housing.”
Homeless Awareness Day and the student rally at St. Thomas University is one of Davie’s most important events during the year.. “The students return to school so energized and motivated. It teaches our youth that as future leaders, they have to always be kind and look out for the best way to help others. It also helps awaken an army of their peers to hop on board for the common purpose of looking to improve the lives of others in our community. When you see firsthand your students opening their hearts and caring about something meaningful, it touches your life as well. To me, that is the essence of working with kids and it encourages me to keep going.”
Homeless Awareness Day is November 3, 2023. If you’re a teacher and interested in planning a Homeless Awareness Day event at your school or would like to begin a collection project for local shelters, email Sydne@m.network to find out how you can become involved.