Socks and coffee.
Alyssa Farraye has learned these two items mean much to the homeless.
Farraye, a junior at High Point University, has a passion for helping people. That’s why she spent her summer working on The Relief Bus, a mobile homeless resource center in New Jersey.
She says the volunteer work opened her eyes to many things, including the universal need for hope. So she’s taking what she learned and she’s bringing it to High Point.
A native of Oakland, New Jersey, Farraye is no stranger to service. She previously spent five summers on mission trips in Ireland with her church to help teenagers affected by alcoholism and depression.
“We had been so consistent with Ireland that it became comfortable for us,” Farraye says. “It was important for us to find something that made us uncomfortable.”
That’s when she found The Relief Bus. Through various fundraisers, she and a group of friends raised $3,000 to serve on the bus and reach out to the homeless communities in Paterson, New Jersey, as well as Manhattan, Harlem and the Bronx in New York City.
After an extensive week of training, Farraye spent five days serving on the bus, offering hot meals, drinks, health care, job opportunities, job training, prayer, hygiene kits and socks to anyone who wanted them. Then, she spent two days walking the streets with a group of volunteers doing the same thing.
That’s when she met Dan, a 28-year-old who waited tables for a while, but started living on the streets after the paychecks ran out. When Farraye asked him why he didn’t want to go look for another job as a waiter, Dan opened her eyes to the harsh, cyclical reality of homelessness.
“When people live on the streets, they carry around a suitcase or a shopping cart,” Farraye says. “That’s their life. Dan said, ‘I can’t leave this and go inside and try to fill out an application, or go in for an interview. I can’t trust anyone to take care of this for me. I can’t leave this in a corner because I know when I come back, it’ll be gone.’
“If they were to lose that, they would lose everything they had. They felt hopeless because they were carrying around this burden in the form of a suitcase or shopping cart.”
Farraye ministered to hundreds of people like Dan. She found that many of them wanted socks and coffee.
One woman explained sitting on the ground 24/7 blocks the blood flow to their feet. Since body heat is released from the extremities, their feet break out into cold sweats all the time, which eventually ruins their socks.
“They don’t get any sleep, they’re cold, and they’re constantly being woken up by noises and people passing by them,” Farraye explains. “They wake up every 20 minutes to make sure no one is taking their stuff. They’re exhausted.”
Through that, she realized not only do people need hope, but she could do something about it.
“This world is in need of people who can love them for their stories,” she says. “But people are scared of their past and their scars because they don’t want judgment. When they hear, ‘I love you for you, I respect you for you, I’m not judging you, I want to hear your story,’ that begins to break down the wall they’re hiding behind.”
Bringing Hope Home
Those seven days of service changed Farraye’s outlook on life.
Now, she plans to bring similar homelessness relief efforts to the city of High Point – to get connected with local resources and find other students and community members who want to help.
Her average days at HPU are already a whirlwind of activity. She’s a University Ambassador, peer mentor, club soccer team member, Bible study leader, Zeta Tau Alpha sister, University Singer and piano player. That is, when she’s not in class or studying for her double major in psychology and human relations, or her minor in music with a piano concentration.
But she wants to do more.
Farraye is working to organize a mobile drop-in location in downtown High Point, similar to The Relief Bus, where people in need could receive food, drink, hygiene kits and more.
“The city of High Point has a desperate need for someone to notice these people, someone to listen to their story, buy them a cup of coffee, or get them a pair of socks,” she says. “HPU as a university acknowledges those needs in the city. That’s why I’ve been so excited to share my story. If my story gets out to students and people who have resources, they can be my partner in spreading this.”
After she graduates from HPU, Farraye plans to pursue her master’s degree and eventually establish her own music therapy clinic in the Triad as an alternative way for people to cope with physical and mental illness. She says the experiential education she received from HPU has given her the skills she needs to turn her passions into a full-time career.
“I’ve been plugged into the psychology field hands-on, the music field hands-on, and the human relations field hands-on,” she says. “It’s not strictly me sitting down in a classroom learning; I’ve learned outside the classroom too.”
For example, Farraye’s human relations classes taught her stress management techniques that she uses to help her overcome stage fright during piano performances.
She also credits her leadership development, conflict resolution and psychology classes for giving her the confidence and strength to help others who are dealing with difficult situations.
“High Point University has taught me speaking skills and how to be personable, as well as how to bring out in others a care for their neighbors. What I have learned in the classroom has helped me know what to say to those who are struggling.”
In every city, Farraye knows there are people like Dan who need assistance.
But she also knows her supportive HPU community of fellow students, faculty and staff will rise to the challenge.
“Here on campus, we have a great structure. We’re welcoming, we’re judgment free and we’re caring. Now it’s time for us to take it outside campus and extend this hope into the city and beyond.”