National Hunger & Homeless Week: An essay by Bernie Dyme

We invited our volunteers to write about what motivates them in their work for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Their essays will be posted daily as we mark National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week.

This essay is written by Bernie Dyme, vice president of the CCH Board of Directors. Bernie is president and CEO at Perspectives, Ltd., a Chicago company consulting on employee assistance programs, worklife and management issues. 

It is really amazing how you can see something and yet not really see it. I have to admit that, up until 2003, I knew of homelessness and saw it every day when I walked to my office downtown. Since I get in early, I saw folks who had spent the night outside in doorways or above subway grates in order to stay warm. It did affect me greatly but I didn’t fully grasp the gravity of the situation until I accidentally became involved with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

That occurred when, in November of 2003, a friend and business colleague of mine asked me to come in and facilitate a group for the staff of the Coalition who were dealing with the loss of their Executive Director. Since I am a social worker by training and have provided many such grief groups to organizations, I gladly donated my time to do this. But this one was very different, as  I was soon to learn. Juancho Donahue, the executive director of the Coalition, was more than that to his staff.  He was the driving force and larger than life. I was immediately struck by the close bond amongst the staff and the respect that they had for the man and the mission.  And, more so, I was struck by the compassion and drive of these folks.

Clearly I was greatly affected and, when asked to become a member of the Board not long after that meeting, I accepted. In the last nine years, as I have become more involved, I have opened my eyes to what I wasn’t really seeing; the horror and injustice of homelessness. My resolve to help end homelessness and make sure that no one goes hungry has become rock solid and grows each and every day. It is critical that no one sees but remains blind.  We all need to take part in this herculean effort and work tirelessly toward the goal of ending homelessness. The staff, interns, leaders and all other volunteers who work each and every day to this end are amazing and we must support them in their efforts in whatever way we can.