National Hunger & Homeless Week: Inspired by those she’s met on the street

During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, CCH offers these essays by interns, staff and volunteers, writing about what inspires their work. 

By Rochelle Burks, Volunteer

I am majoring in social work at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, where I also work in the admissions office. Every other week, we take a busload of visiting students downtown to experience the city. Each time we go to the mall and to Ghiradelli to get a free chocolate sample. And every time we pass at least two homeless people. We see them sitting on the corner in this frigid air, with their signs asking for donations: “Homeless veteran. Please help.” “Need Money, everything helps.” And we don’t feel comfortable giving direct cash because we don’t want to fund any poor habits or addictions. So we just look away. Avoid eye contact. 

Rochelle Burks
Rochelle Burks

I have a heart to serve, to better their situation, but in that moment I feel so helpless. We once walked past a homeless family. It was an African-American mom and her two daughters. They were sitting on the ground with their sign, not with enough dignity to even look at us. They were huddled together trying to keep whatever warmth unity they had left. That could be me and my mom and my sister. What if that was me and my mom and my sister? How would I want people to respond? What can I do now to help them?

I’ve responded in the past by participating with other Trinity students in our Sunday Snacks program, where we make sack lunches and bring them downtown to distribute along with scarves and gloves and other winter wear to the people who are homeless. During my time on Lower Wacker Drive and other nearby streets, I was able to meet and relate to the people I met there. They have stories and interests and skill sets that often go overlooked.

One man I met encouraged me to stay in school, then led us in a song of praise to the Lord, praying over us. He had such heart. But no home. No one deserves to bear those conditions. That man and that family and all homeless people are worth more and deserve better.

Raised in Downers Grove, Rochelle Burks is a senior at Trinity Christian College. She serves on a student committee that works with the CCH Speakers Bureau, including a recent meeting to discuss issues related to homelessness with State Rep. Bill Cunningham.