Easter Day at Wards Island Men’s Shelter
Youth activist Victoria Pannell has made an influential impact on her community by launching her non-profit organization, Tools For Change! She created this platform to give young people basic life tools toward a better future. See how her organization served Easter dinner at Wards Island Men’s Shelter + registered them to vote!
Please tell our readers a little about Ward’s Island Men’s Shelter.
Wards Island is made up of a collection of mostly male homeless shelters. We believe there are 4 shelters on the Island. My mother had the idea to go to Wards Island after attending a town hall meeting for candidates running for city council. One person asked the candidates what they were going to do about all the homeless men coming to 125th st and Lexington ave. Not one candidate had an answer and most didn’t even know anything about Wards Island. My mother and I along with a friend starting visiting the Island. We talked to so many men who were just down on their luck. The men are grouped together. You have men who are just homeless residing with the mentally ill, recent parolees from Rikers Island and drug addicts. There is no separation so each group cannot get the needs and services addressed for their particular problems.
Why was it important for your non profit Tools for Change to serve Easter Dinner and register these men to vote?
We served the dinner as a way to communicate and let the men know they are not alone. We wanted them to know we will be on the main Island fighting for them long after Easter. Although we will be fighting for them they must reclaim some of their own power and one way to do that is vote the politicians out of office that don’t care about them. A lot of the men believe because they are homeless they can’t vote or because of their criminal record they can’t vote. That is why I had informational pamphlets available to let the residents know being homeless doesn’t disqualify someone from being eligible to vote. Also having a criminal record doesn’t automatically disqualify someone. Feeding them and giving away gift bags was to get their attention. Once we had their attention we wanted them to take back their power, hence registering to vote.
The men cannot take any food inside the shelter including water. The food at the shelters has been described as slop by all of them. There’s absolutely nothing to do during the day, not even television, so the men take the free M35 bus to 125th st and Lexington to eat and stand around.
Find out more here!