SIU members took pandemic-related safeguards while enthusiastically engaging in a months-long community outreach effort in Oakland, California.
Seafarers pitched in to help a local Covenant House California (CHC) facility. They donated various items for the non-profit youth homeless shelter and delivered them once per month, from June through August. The union also made a monetary contribution.
CHC Bay Area Development Officer Vera Hannush said the SIU’s support made a difference. “The youth loved seeing them come through,” she stated. “We’re just starting to open back up to in-person volunteering, and it was clear that the SIU is a team and a band of brothers doing it all together.”
The timing was important, Hannush said, because the pandemic has led to increased homelessness.
“We’re serving more and more people, and we’re the only shelter system for Alameda County,” she said. “The donations from the SIU were phenomenal. They brought water, non-perishable foods, hygiene items and more. We’re so deeply appreciative.”
Seafarers said they were happy to pitch in.
Chief Cook Keith Hall noted, “It went very well. The people at the shelter were very grateful to receive the donations we provided through the SIU. My involvement was basically helping distribute and also generating donations.”
Hall added, “This is our community, and anyone can fall on hard times, especially with the pandemic. It can be difficult to provide for your family. We’re more fortunate, and sometimes it’s best to give back. I think it’s reciprocated in the long run.”
GUDE Emmanuel Nuez said that when he learned of the opportunity to volunteer, “I said yeah, no problem, I’m more than happy to help out. It went well. The people were very friendly and very thankful.”
Recertified Bosun Artis Williams said that in addition to finding the experience worthwhile, it also proved an eye-opener.
“I was surprised because I’m from this area, and I didn’t even know Covenant House existed,” he stated. “To see us involved and helping others in our own community is a big deal. It means a lot to me – what we do as people and as a union. I was very, very happy to be involved with it.” Hannush also was struck by the proximity of the Oakland hiring hall and the CHC building.
“I walk by the hall all the time,” she said. “We have more than 30 sites nationally and internationally, but Seafarers are our neighbors.”
CHC is self-described as “a non-profit youth homeless shelter that provides sanctuary and support for homeless and trafficked youth, ages 18-24. We believe that no young person deserves to be homeless; that every young person in California deserves shelter, food, clothing, education … and most importantly, to be loved. Now serving over 4,700 youth a year, CHC provides a full continuum of services to meet the physical, emotional, educational, vocational, and spiritual well-being of young people, in order to provide them with the best chance for success in independence.”