GCD Community Engagement – Commitment in Sanagitachi leading to better relationships with homeless communities

I have demonstrated the commitment to service towards the homeless community of Kannai, Yokohama through joining the Sanagitachi service club. I joined this club in 9th grade and this is my fourth year. Our aim in Sanagitachi is to make the life of homeless people a little easier and comfortable. We go on patrols twice a month during the summer and once every week during the winter since it is more difficult to cope with the cold weather, and it is very important to stay warm. During the patrols, we give out clothing, blankets, toothbrushes, razors and other necessities to the homeless people. During the summer, shirts, razors, and underwear are very popular, and during winter, blankets are heavily demanded. We split into two groups so one group patrol’s around Yokohama Stadium and the other goes to Kannai station.

Until the end of 2016, Sanagitachi was a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) and was supported by the government, which gave us more easy access to information and storage space for goods to bring on the patrols. Because the NPO group was very much in control of the patrols, our main focus as a group in YIS then, was to learn more about the issue itself and raise awareness. However, when the organization went bankrupt and lost the NPO label, it became a volunteering act. The Sanagitachi storage house was taken away, which lead to borrowing a storage room in a church building nearby. As a service group at YIS, we felt more responsibility and need for consistent commitment to supporting the homeless, in order to take over the role of the NPO group.

We showed commitment and took action by starting a new donation drive event called “The Giving Tree” during the Christmas season. We set a Christmas tree in the foyer of the school then hung “ornaments” which are pieces are paper with the name of the items we are collecting for the drive. Students would take the “ornaments” off of the tree, take it home, bring in the item under the tree, and hang the “ornament” up on the tree again so other students can repeat the same process. We made sure it was appealing for the elementary students as well by making the set up colorful since they are always the most enthusiastic about participating in events. This event turned out to be very successful and allowed the YIS community to be the main source for donations that are distributed during the patrols. An aspect we had to change was that we needed to emphasize the need of some items over others. We were able to collect more than enough of items that were easy to bring in such as razors, toothbrushes, soap, and shirts. However, we needed more of blankets, underwear, and socks. Therefore, our plan for this year is to emphasize the goods that we are in need of for the Giving Tree Drive, but also place a donation box in another location all year around so anyone can bring in goods at any time.

We also have shown commitment through participating in most of the patrols that run on a school night. One of the rules in our group is for each member to attend at least 2 patrols every semester, which makes sure we all get to experience the direct service aspect of Sanagitachi. Going on the patrol gives us an idea of what goods we need to bring more of, as well as come in contact with the issue of homelessness in the area and learn more about it.

We plan to continuously adapt our events and actions to coordinate to the homeless’s needs. Demonstrating commitment through these actions will lead to a better relationship with the homeless community. It will help us support the homeless better by making their lives a little easier, especially through the harsh winter weather.