Please visit www.projectdowntown.org for more information.
Project Downtown is an initiative that began with a few students that were dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the plight of homeless and needy individuals in cities across the nation, dissatisfied with the blind eye that society has turned toward them, and dissatisfied to their own non-contribution to the betterment of their own communities. So they turned their dissatisfaction into action.
They gathered what little resources they had and made 30 sandwiches to pass out in the heart of downtown, Miami, Florida. Individuals downtown were surprised that their gift was not contingent upon reading a pamphlet or listening to a sermon. Finally, one of them asked, “why are you doing this?” The answer of the students was none other but the Qur’an’s answer:
“We feed you for the sake of God alone, no reward do we seek, nor thanks.” (76:9)
The students continued to visit their friends downtown every Friday to offer whatever modest, unconditional gifts they could offer, which has so far included well over 10,000 meals, 1500 articles of clothes, and 1400 toiletry kits. They have also helped secure three apartments for their friends, who are no longer homeless.
But besides the physical support, Project Downtown volunteers are there every week to remember people that have been forgotten, to lend a empathic ear to their plight, and to offer words of emotional support. On multiple occasions, the downtown friends remarked “when other people come here they feed us like we are animals. But when you come, we feel the love. We feel that you truly care.”
Since the giving of that first unconditional gift, Project Downtown joined hands with MSA National in the fall of 2006 to further serve our friends across the nation. The Community Service Task Force of MSA National was formed to allow the MSA students to better serve not only themselves and their university community, but the society at large.
Through their service, Project Downtown volunteers have come to realize that their primary staple of distribution is neither water nor bread, but love. Join us, and find out the secret sauce of this quiet revolution.
What makes PD different from other organizations that assist those in need?
The main question that should be asked is whether or not the efforts of PD are redundent in relation to other organizations? It turns out that being different should not be the driving force in our efforts. However PD is different in many ways than most organizations. We focus on the people themesleves that we meet. Establishing sincere relationships. Spending time with people and not just handing them supplies. However, every organization that seeks to empower and care for people in need should be applauded and supported. However Supply is not meeting Demand. Their is tons of work to be done. We believe we can do it.
What services do you provide?
PD is not limited in any sense in the services it provides. Our fundamental goal is to meet the needs of those less fortunate in any way possible. Whether that means through weekly food and clothes distribution or through housing assistance and job facilitating, PD is there. But what is more powerful and needed most of all is an open heart. At PD we always say that ” We are dealing with empty hearts, not empty stomachs”. Spending time with and learning from the people we meet is, by far, the most important service we provide.
Why do you prefer using the word “friends” rather than “homeless”?
A beautiful man by the name of Jared, whom we met on the streets of Tampa and is know working full time and living in a nearby apartment one time taught us that people should not be identified as “homeless”. That one should not be identified by their material possessions. If one does not own a car, they should not be called the “carless”. The one not owning a yacht should not be called the “yachtless” and so on. This classification would put us all in the “less” category one way or another. At PD we identify people by who they are. And the people we meet are simply: our friends. And we hope that they will accept us as theirs.
Why go downtown?
Throughout the history of our cities we have slowely migrated into the suburbs. Downtown has become a place to make money during the day, and get away from during the night. Unfortunately not everyone has been able to make the expensive leap out of the heart of the city. The most vulnerable have been left behind. We believe that in order to solve the plagues of our socitey, we cannot run from them, but need to approach them from the roots. We need to go Downtown.
What is PD?
PD is not an organization. PD is an idea. An idea that calls for all people to start carying for others. To lend a helping hand to those that need it but are too ashamed to ask for it. Providing this uncondtional help for a purpose that is deeply rooted in our hearts. Recognizing that those we “help” are really helping us.