April 25, 2013

Giving aid to homeless becomes a passion

Posted in Between Us column, Health, Spirituality, Women at 12:41 am by dinaheng

About 20 years ago. Pearl Huber would take her sons — then ages 3, 5 and 7 — to a Los Angeles neighborhood park to play. While the kids ran on the playground, Huber noticed that homeless families were living there at night.

That December, the Hubers decided to bring Christmas to two families in the park, so Pearl, her husband Terry, and their sons wrapped up food, toiletries and some gifts to take to the families who had none.Dinah Eng

“It made quite an impact on the boys,” says Huber, who was a stay-at-home mom at the time. “After that, we starting doing things at Thanksgiving, Easter, and other holidays, and it made us aware of how many homeless are out there. We started keeping sack lunches in our car to give out. We’d make a peanut butter sandwich, and put it with an apple, a toothbrush, and a bar of soap.”

In 2008, Huber decided to establish a 501(c)(3) non-profit to expand the family’s outreach to more homeless people, and HopeMill, Inc. was born.

“HopeMill’s named after my mom,” explains Huber, executive director of the organization. “My maiden name is Hope, and her name was Mildred. Her brother always called her Mill. She was born in China, where her parents were Lutheran missionaries, and lived there until she was 12. She returned to China as a missionary in her 20s.”

Clearly, the desire to help others was passed down to Huber, who shows what one woman can do to make a difference in the lives of many whom society ignores. From two families in a park, HopeMill has grown to help an estimated 2,000 homeless people a year.

Volunteers with Adat Ari El in Valley Village, Calif. assemble Hope Mill CarePacks for a Mitzvah Day project.

Volunteers with Adat Ari El in Valley Village, Calif. assemble Hope Mill CarePacks for a Mitzvah Day project.

Based in Encino, Calif., the non-profit puts together backpacks filled with essentials that are distributed to homeless individuals, missions, and shelters in California. Essentials include items like non-perishable food, water, hygiene packets with toilet paper, laundry detergent, soap, bandages, toothbrush, blanket, and more.

“It’s the kind of things you’d need if you were suddenly without a home,” Huber notes. “People assume there are resources, and if people wanted to get off the street, they could. But that’s not the case. Here, there are probably fewer than 900 shelter beds available in the San Fernando Valley, and more than 7,000 homeless people in need.”

She says while there’s a stereotype of the homeless being drug addicts or alcoholics, most do not fall in that category, and would love to find a way out of their predicament. Homelessness affects families with young children, teens, veterans… in other words, everyone. The reasons run the gamut from job loss, foreclosures, domestic violence to you name it.

“It doesn’t take much to make someone homeless,” Huber says. “A house could burn down, or a medical catastrophe could bankrupt you. We carry a couple of backpacks in our car, and one day, I met a woman in a gas station who was clearly trying to wash up there, so I gave her one. She started to cry, saying no one had ever given her anything before.”

Hope Mill CarePack includes donated essentials.

Hope Mill CarePack includes donated essentials.

Giving to the homeless, wherever you are, could be such an easy thing. All it takes is noticing a need, and stopping to help. Not everyone will care enough to start an organization like HopeMill, but every act of kindness makes a tangible difference.

“I know we’re not going to change the world by doing this,” Huber says. “But if we can help someone a little, it matters. It’s a small thing that can touch many people.”

To make a cash or in-kind donation to HopeMill, check out http://www.hopemill.com/.


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