BY NICOLE RUSSELL
As a resident of Queens, I take great pride in my community. I grew up encouraged to dream and fulfill endless possibilities and as destiny would have it, I was blessed with the opportunity to help others in my community make their own dreams into reality.
Six years ago, my mother adopted a 4-year-old girl named Miracle who suffered from severe and frequent nightmares as a result of her family’s neglect. Miracle always lit up the room with her smile and happy spirit, but her fears haunted her on a nightly basis. To help Miracle manage these tough times, my mother began introducing stress coping items and reading to her at night. Soon, her nightmares were almost nonexistent and that’s where my idea for the Precious Dreams Foundation was born.
Feeling inspired and the need to give back to my community, I felt the desire to help other children who may be struggling to dream, like my sister. I established the Precious Dreams Foundation to help kids in shelter and foster care find comfort in their darkest hour, instead helping shed light on their dreams. Now in its third year, I realize the kids of Precious Dreams, of our local communities, of our entire New York City homeless population, need the help of all of us.
Some of these children hail right from places like the old Pan Am Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, or the former Westway Hotel. These are children who have hopes, dreams and aspirations and who just want to be loved and accepted, like all children throughout our city. Their families come from different walks of life, who now find themselves locked in a vicious cycle of poverty, a lack of affordable housing and an unstable economy.
When I hear about residents, and entire communities, outraged over the placement of a shelter, it saddens me because falling on hard times is not something reserved for a select class. This happens all across the city, in every borough. Crisis doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t pick and choose its victims, and at any given moment, anyone of us can experience some of the hardships so many of our fellow New Yorkers face.
I understand there are no easy answers to homelessness. I understand it’s a complex issue. But, the truth is, we cannot continue to walk these city streets, live in our neighborhoods, and pretend like the problem is going to solve itself, or isn’t our problem. It is incumbent on us to help people up instead of continuing to break them down.
We all have dreams, hopes and aspirations. Let’s offer jobs, institute internships, volunteer with organizations and really connect with our afflicted neighbors. It’s time to reincorporate the homeless back into the fabric of our communities and to rebuild a strong, stable New York. It is in our power to help break, and end, this vicious cycle and help turn the dreams of our fellow New Yorkers into reality.
Russell is the co-founder of the Precious Dreams Foundation.