Written by: John DeRousie, Custom Marketing Solutions
OSWEGO, NY – Homelessness. It exists in virtually every community and impacts all ages. In some cases the plight of the homeless is easily recognizable, in others it is more of a silent, unseen issue.
While homelessness in Oswego County is not always recognizable, it does exist. A one-day study on January 25 of this year, conducted by the County of Oswego Advocates Challenging Homelessness (COACH), indicates that on any day in Oswego county more than 85 county residents have no place to call home and more than 30 more are on the brink of homelessness.
While there are some services available, one basic need is not…shelter where they find temporary comfort from the elements.
There is no homeless shelter in Oswego County.
However, 12-year-old Emily Bradshaw, a student at Oswego Middle School, is on a mission to change that.
“My Grandmother works at DSS (Oswego County Department of Social Services) and when I heard that there were hundreds of homeless people in Oswego County but no homeless shelter it upset me a lot. I decided I was going to do whatever I can to get one,” said Bradshaw.
Determined, Bradshaw began her quest for a homeless shelter with a visit to the Oswego County Legislature in September when she voiced her concern and spoke of the issue of homelessness and the need for a homeless shelter.
“This is a serious issue and we need to help people,” said Bradshaw.
Following her appeal to the Oswego County Legislature, Emily spoke with Oswego County Social Services Commissioner Greg Heffer and Executive Director of Oswego County Opportunities, a community action agency that offers several programs for the homeless.
“They suggested that since it may take a while to get a homeless shelter and that while I was lobbying I could start a drive to collect personal care items that would be distributed to homeless people,” said Bradshaw.
And so it began. Through personal visits and letters Bradshaw contacted businesses, organizations, dentists, churches, family and friends shared her mission with them and asked for donations of personal care items.
She was very pleased with the responses she received noting that the community has been very generous, even her classmates helped her.
With a goal of collecting enough items to make 500 personal care bags Bradshaw began collecting, sorting, and putting together the bags. In less than three months she not only met her goal, she far surpassed it, and isn’t done yet.
“I’ve made 540 bags…and counting,” said Bradshaw. “I’m happy that the community is helping me. It makes me feel good.”
Bradshaw said that she has already begun distributing the bags with DSS receiving 150 bags and Oswego High School, Oswego Middle School, and G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton each receiving 50 bags.
“Even though we may not know it, there are a lot of homeless students. I was told that during any given week there are at least two-dozen homeless students at Oswego High School alone. It makes me happy to know that I am helping them,” said Bradshaw.
Additionally, Bradshaw said that she would be distributing personal care bags along with hats and scarves during the Oswego Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner.
Throughout her drive for personal care bags Bradshaw has continued to lobby for the creation of a homeless shelter.
She continues to share her vision with Oswego County legislators, her city councilor, the mayor of Oswego and other county and state representatives.
She has met with Assemblyman Will Barclay and has reached out to Congressman Bill Owens and Senator Patty Ritchie.
Bradshaw’s commitment to her mission of establishing a homeless shelter in Oswego County and her determined efforts to collect and distribute personal care bags have crated a buzz in the community that is helping to building support for her project throughout the county.
“Emily is remarkable. What she is doing is wonderful as it is making people recognize the fact that homelessness does exist in Oswego County and it is an issue that seriously needs to be addressed. When young people bring forward the issue of homelessness it has a sense of credibility as they see it for themselves in school. Emily is putting a personal touch to the issue,” said COACH member and Deputy Executive Director of Oswego County Opportunities, Sarah Irland.
As for Bradshaw, her ongoing personal care bags drive and her mission of establishing a homeless shelter in Oswego County is a labor of love.
“Bad things can happen to good people and everyone deserves to be treated equal. It makes my heart feel happy because I know I am helping people and that our community is helping people,” said Bradshaw.
To contribute to Bradshaw’s personal care bags drive, contact Jennifer Bradshaw at 315-342-3164 or via e-mail at [email protected] to arrange for pick up of items or leave donations in the main office of Oswego Middle School, 100 Mark FitzGibbons Drive.