Ending Homelessness in Rhode Island

default10:6:14Lexi Moubarak ’15

How often do you think about homelessness? Probably not very often. And you aren’t alone. Prior to my internship with Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless (RICH), homelessness rarely crossed my mind. I mean for God’s sake, there are so many horrible things going on in the world. How can we keep track of everything? Between the ISIS beheadings, the shooting of Michael Brown, and the first case of Ebola in the US, homelessness hasn’t been the flashing headline on CNN and BBC.

But according to data done by the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, last year there were 4,447 homeless people in Rhode Island. Families make up forty one percent of this number. This is a social injustice currently facing the state we all proudly call home. The most successful initiative to end homelessness has been to house people first, and then provide necessary services and employment. Housing first works. Only 5 to 10 percent of people housed first end up back on the street. Rhode Island has just applied to a campaign called zero2016; to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2016!

And here is how YOU can get involved. On the nights of Nov. 10, 11, and 12 from 6-9pm we will be sending groups out across the state to assess every homeless person. It is called Registry Week and we need volunteers to join. It is OK if you can only participate in one or two nights. I am going to be holding a training session in the coming weeks on campus for all the student participants. We will be using a tool called the VI-SPDAT to assess the homeless.  It is a series of questions, requiring about 8 to 10 minutes per person, to help us rank the homeless on a vulnerability index.  This way we know who is the most vulnerable for dying on the streets and needs permanent housing first.

I know it is a commitment to give up a valuable weeknight. But, besides the fact that participating will look great on a resume, I PROMISE you this will be a rewarding and humbling experience. We need all the citizens of Rhode Island to get involved and help us end homelessness. It is already starting to get so cold out. I was out a few Fridays ago doing homeless outreach. It was only mid-September and I was cold in my sweatshirt. Walking around downtown handing out bus tickets, I couldn’t imagine sleeping on the streets that night, let alone sleeping outside in December. Registry Week is our best shot for getting the homeless registered so we can start moving them into permanent housing. And who doesn’t deserve a warm bed and bathroom?

Register to Volunteer with Zero2016 Registry Week Here

Dress In A Way That Makes You Feel BEAUTIFUL, CONFIDENT, and COMFORTABLE

LexiThumbnailLexi Moubarak ’15

Needless to say, for an American girl growing up with a very conservative Lebanese father was not easy. What was I allowed to wear out of the house? Definitely not what my friends wore. A short jean skirt was a huge no…unless of course it was accompanied by thick black tights, which always came off in the bathroom at my destination (sorry Dad!). Most of our arguments revolved around what I wanted to wear out of the house. To this day I am criticized by my family’s cultural standards for the way I dress. My dad regularly says things like, “We don’t wear dresses that short” or “Lebanese girls don’t have so many piercings.”

To clarify, my dad is a very loving father who has given me an incredible life. Although his insistence on modesty as a way of fending off rapists frustrates me, my siblings and I giggle lovingly about his ways. For example, my dad often chases me out of the house to check what I am wearing before I can get in my car and drive away. On the other hand though, he does compliment me just as much on how nice I look when I am dressed for church or daily activities. It is only when I pull out those tight short dresses or high heels do I get I reaction. His reasoning: “I don’t want men to look at you and think they can have their way with you.”

Yes, I may draw more attention to myself when I wear less clothing. But guess what… sexual assault and rape DOES NOT only happen when women are dressed in that way. Most times sexual assault happens with someone you know in a place where you are comfortable. I was sexually assaulted wearing jeans and a T-shirt in a school setting. It can happen ANYWHERE and at ANY TIME. Warning women that sexual assault is more likely to occur when they are provocatively dressed is misleading, and doesn’t address the underlying question of why rape and sexual assault of women continues to be a reality around the world.

It is not fair to ask us to change the way that we dress, stay out late, or not wear too much make-up in order “to not be raped”. Especially, because that is not going to guarantee us safety and in my case may even give young girls the impression that they are safe in places like school where modesty is expected and there is no alcohol involved. It is important to realize that when encouraging women to dress modestly that often takes the blame off of men. This implies that if women were to dress more modestly it would be less likely for them to be sexually assaulted. Which in fact is not fair and misleading because it makes women think that somehow it is their fault. We must demand that men learn self-control and respect, and be held to a higher standard of behavior, rather than take a one-sided approach of embracing and perpetuating slut-shaming.

I was blessed to grow up with an older sister who built up my self-confidence. She was always there to tell me how beautiful I am and how I should love myself. This isn’t to say that I am the most confident person with no insecurities. Of course I have insecurities. Every person does. What makes this topic hard is to whom do we blame for our insecurities? The media? Our parents? The pressure to wear certain clothes? These are not questions for which I have answers. But, I do know that when I dress, it is for style. It is for comfort. And it is most certainly for me. There is no way that I am going to tolerate (or ANY WOMAN should tolerate) being harassed or assaulted by a guy, no matter what she is wearing.

Yes, modesty is in my culture. Whatever culture you come from and whatever pressures you are battling – whether it is the pressure to wear more or wear less – my advice to you is to dress in a way in which you feel strong. Although your clothing is one way to express yourself, what matters is who you are on the inside and how that shines through. May you dress in a way that makes you feel BEAUTIFUL, CONFIDENT, AND COMFORTABLE. May you know that you are worthy of love and respect no matter how you dress. And may you know that sexual assault is NEVER OK and you are not to blame. So ladies, if you are feeling confident…. stumble on 😉

 

P.S. This applies for both men and women. Men deserve the respect of women as well because the reality is that men are sexually assaulted and fall under the pressures of wearing certain clothing too.

Dear 2017: Ten Things I Would Tell My Freshman Self… (in no particular order)

LexiThumbnailLexi Moubarak ’15
  1. Don’t drink on a Wednesday night when you have a Civ quiz the next morning.  You will not pass.
  2. Take advantage of your professor’s office hours and ask for extra help when needed.  THEY ARE MORE THAN WILLING TO HELP.
  3. If you are going to break parietals in McDermott, make sure you pee before 2 am.
  4. Take advantage of the Campus Ministry Center, there is always free food, and you’ll always find smiling faces.  Also, Father Cuddy and Father Brophy are two people you want to get to know.
  5. Don’t wear 6-inch heels to a house party.  Not only will your shoes get ruined, you will wipe out down the stairs.
  6. You have to read for Civ if you want to know what is going on in class.
  7. Join clubs, it is the best way to meet people that share the same interests as you!!
  8. There is free printing in The Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies.  Also, you can print in the computer labs in Accino and Howley.
  9. Going out 4 times a week gets really old. You have 4 years!  Don’t succumb to FOMO.  Rest when you need it and take advantage of all the other activities the city and the school has to offer!!  You do not need to drink to go out and you most certainly should never feel like there is nothing else to do but drink.
  10. Do your homework during the day!!!  Don’t wait till after dinner when friends are hanging out or going out.  Take advantage of all the spare time you have between classes.  Hit up the library or Slavin and bang out a few pages of reading here and there!  You have more time than you think.

“I Cannot Do Everything, But Still I Can Do Something”

LexiThumbnailLexi Moubarak ’15

So, I spent all of last semester campaigning for Providence College to go bottled water free. It was draining. The other members of the campaign and I got little sleep, constantly sent emails to students and the administration, and spent most of our time getting fellow students to sign our petition. Finally on April 2, Congress officially passed a piece of legislation stating that clubs and organizations cannot use allocated funds to purchase bottled-water for their events. Instead, pitchers and coolers of tap water will be provided. All of our hard work had paid off and was worth it. Summer came, and we all got time to rest.

I have always been environmentally friendly and enjoyed spending my time outside, but all this sustainability momentum further affected my personal life. I stopped forgetting to bring my reusable bags to the supermarket, I forced all my friends to recycle their bottles (and even did it for them when they were too lazy), and I also caught myself sometimes picking plastic out of the tops of garbage cans to put in the nearby recycling bin. I will never understand how people can still choose not to recycle when there is a recycling bin right next to the garbage can!

I moved up to Provincetown, MA about a week after school ended. For anyone who has never visited Provincetown, you should. It is the greatest place in the world. In the summertime I work at the Harbor Hotel as a receptionist, waitress, and bartender. Getting back to work this year was harder than I expected. I remembered from the summer before how much it bothered me that the hotel did not recycle, but I did not realize how much more it would bother me this year. I could not believe that I was throwing out beer bottles during my bar shift or scraps of paper while working the front desk. It was only a few weeks prior I was pushing my peers to reduce the amount of plastic they use.

It was only a few weeks into work and I was already so discouraged. I loved my job and all the people I worked with, but I did not want to be a willing participant in something in which I really do not believe. Part of me wished I had taken a job offer I recieved in Providence for the summer. I could have worked on a campaign in Rhode Island to ban plastic bags from being handed out at stores during checkout. Plastic bags easily fly into the ocean and can get caught in the bellies of birds and fish. Also, plastic never actually degrades. It just breaks apart into tiny particles and is spread throughout our atmosphere.

I was able to rally some coworkers around the issue of the hotel not recycling, but we never got into doing any research. It was always on my list of things to do: CALL TOWN HALL. Quite honestly, I compromised my values for environmental sustainability for a summer full of work, money, and too much partying. Not working in an environment where recycling is a priority only led me to brush it off and care less. I felt empty a lot of the summer because I knew this behavior was out of character for me. I would faithfully recycle in my condo and pick up trash off the beach, yet I could not take that extra step to organize a recycling bin for the hotel. I found it extremely difficult to stay focused and disciplined in a place where everyone was not fighting for the same thing. Unfortunately, I left Provincetown without getting the hotel to recycle. It has not been accomplished yet.

The Think Outside the Bottle Campaign was successful because of our dedicated team. We each did our part of researching, talking to students, and emailing the administration. Being away from the momentum and encouragement of my fellow activists at Providence really hit home how valuable our team is. I would like to challenge myself in the future to create a team of dedicated environmentalists in places where there are none.

I spent the last two weeks traveling Alaska. I was in awe of the untouched beauty of the largest state in the Union. Between Glacier Bay, the Tongass National Forest, and all the bears and seals we saw, I fell in love with the environment all over again. While I was there, the desire to protect our environment hit me like a ton of bricks. My family and I went on a few bottled-water free hikes. Working to help a campaign that is requesting all the National Parks to stop selling bottled-water, we took pictures with a homemade sign. Click here or on the photo if you would like to learn more about the campaign. 

MtMcKinleyAnd yes, that is Mt. McKinley in the background!

Sometimes, it is not going to be easy or readily accessible to create a team of people to work with me on making environmental changes. Helen Keller said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” I am not always going to have a group of fellow tree-huggers by my side encouraging me everywhere I go. I am going to have to learn to encourage myself.

I guess I could have worked in Providence this summer campaigning to ban plastic bottles. I sure would have felt better about how I was spending my time. But that would have been too easy!  I would have been surrounded by environmentalists whose first priority is to help protect our beautiful Earth. I needed to be surrounded by people that didn’t care about protecting the environment in order to remind myself that the real fight is about getting out there, educating people and showing them that small actions in their daily lives can have a “mountainous” effect on the environment. I needed to be reminded that I am one person, but with a little personal motivation, one person can be enough to set change in motion.