Helping Ease the Hardship of Homelessness

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In Ed Conlisk’s case, it may be worth a lot more. The photo in his hand captures the weariness on the 58-year-old’s face after decades of living on the streets.

I can’t remember the last time I posed for a professional photographer. It’s been years, a long time ago. ~Ed

He thought it was at picture day during middle school, right before he dropped out, never to return.

Ed was encouraged to get his photo taken by Crystal, his volunteer tour guide at the Community Resource Exchange, United Way’s event that brought together resources to help those like Ed who are experiencing homelessness in Seattle.

130 service providers were at the Exchange. They signed up guests for housing, counseled them on employment opportunities and took care of medical needs like a tooth extraction and much more. There were also services at the Exchange that help ease the hardship homeless people face like a haircut, a new pair of tennis shoes, and foot washing.

“Crystal encouraged me to get a foot wash. I had never done that before. It was different,” Ed chuckles.

He tried to keep his sense of humor even though life has been especially tough lately.

I came here because all of my stuff got stolen, because all I got is what I have on. ~Ed

Ed is also dealing with a disease that leaves him unable to work. He labored in construction for years, but a diagnosis of COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease forced him to give up jobs offered to him.

Selecting socks, underwear and other essentials at the Exchange, Ed said he’s headed to Arizona, the place where he was born. He hoped to reunite with family.

“I’m so much older and being homeless is not fun.”

Before he left with clothing, well-washed feet and his self-portrait, Ed thanked Crystal and the other volunteers who helped him at the Exchange.

“You guys treated me fine.”

If every picture tells a story, maybe Ed’s photo is not only a snapshot of his struggles with homelessness. Maybe it’s also a reminder of what’s possible when organizations, like United Way, are there to help.

The Community Resource Exchange is in its 13th year and is needed more than ever before given the Seattle homelessness crisis. Want to make a difference? Consider making a donation to help end homelessness in our community today.

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