Homelessness is a burden we witness first-hand no matter where we live. In some of our communities, it is more prevalent than in others.
Whether it is in the urban northeast, the Pacific Northwest or the rural South, there are communities banding together to fight the epidemic and give their neighbors a chance at a better life.
Earlier this month, I experienced just how important our neighbors are to combating homelessness and those families who have places to live but are in need of food -- in my hometown of Shreveport, La.
Common Ground is a local non-profit community center that helps feeds the homeless, clothe the needy and offers after-school tutoring and other programs to underprivileged youth.
In Louisiana alone, one in four children struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America, and nearly half of all households requiring government SNAP nutrition assistance benefits have children.
Walking into Common Ground, I could feel the love of so many who have poured their lives into this amazing place to help people like the homeless in our area.
One Thursday night we prepared food for around 170 people. However, most Thursdays, Common Ground serves nearly twice that many neighbors. Those who are in need are welcomed to share a supper meal, and the food pantry and clothing closet are opened-up to all.
These humble people are more than statistics. Each one brings a unique life story with them.
Over a year's time, Common Ground spends more than $100,000in operating costs.
But the mission of that organization -- and hundreds of others across the United States --exemplifies the power that service to others has to the homeless and the needy in our communities.
In the southeast, Louisiana's estimated 3,059 homeless is about the median for the region.
In more populated states, the numbers are much larger.
According to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, California has nearly 130,000 estimated Americans who struggle with the epidemic.
In the northeast, New York has about 92,000, Pennsylvania approximately 13,500, and Massachusetts 20,068, as of 2018.
Meanwhile, our nation's capital is reportedly home to about 6,000 homeless alone.
Florida leads the southeast with an estimated 31,000 needing the humanitarian work of organizations like Common Ground, according to a map furnished online by the council.
Back in Shreveport that night, I couldn't help but be touched by the amazing people give of their time and resources to personify humanitarianism for the benefit of my city.
I didn’t realize what a huge difference Common Ground made in the lives of so many until I went there. Their group of volunteers is truly a family.
With many of those whom Common Ground serves living without jobs -- a condition which in turn leads to some needing our help with meal assistance -- the organization partnered with the local Bossier Parish Community College to hold classes to get those folks back on their feet as well.
They are changing our city one life at a time, and organizations like Common Ground are doing the same all across the U.S.
Serving our local community is something we all can do.
We all can give our time to serve a meal, our effort to mentor someone, our kindness to the homeless and downtrodden and our heart of gratitude in serving others.
Whether it be volunteering at a place like Common Ground, or simply doing something helpful for your neighbor in need, we all can help those less fortunate than us in our own way.
Jake Cowley is a young artist, he can be reached via twitter @jakecowleymusic