It seems nearly everyone is out playing Pokemon Go. It's a crazy phenomenon that's swept up everyone and we're all still kinda figuring it out. That said, we will be the first to tell you we're hooked. Not just because it's a fun game thats getting people outside and moving around, but because of the opportunity it offers to help those in need.
Here is the challenge: Go Out and Play Pokemon Go + Help Those in Need.
Here is how we did it:
Armed with phones and a bag full of Care Canisters, the Mitscoots team headed to the busy streets of Austin. Our mission was to hand out Care Canisters to those in-need while catching some Pokemon along the way. Care Canisters, which contain toiletries, a snack and a fresh pair of socks, can help serve a person’s basic needs and brighten up their day. (To learn more about Care Canisters visit our last blog post.) We wanted to help our community without passing judgement, and let the homeless know that there are people who genuinely care about their well-being. We wanted to help them in a way that acknowledged them as individuals and allowed them to retain their humanity.
Walking along the streets and catching Pokemon gave us the opportunity to explore Austin in a more in-depth way than ever before. We ventured to places and saw sights we would have never witnessed otherwise. We posed in front of building-sized murals, nabbed some gear at several Pokestops, and stared longingly at the savory-smelling food trucks across the street. Despite the blistering Texas heat and the temptation of greasy food truck deliciousness, we caught a handful of Pokemon, got some of our team together, and formed a stronger bond with our city.
In the process of chasing Pokemon, we were able to accomplish our company mission and what we think is the real opportunity with Pokemon Go, helping those in need. We encountered homeless individuals along the way, some accepting our canisters with a “God bless” and a smile, others a bit more shy but thankful for the canisters nevertheless. We met old folks and younger folks, some with dogs and some with nifty tattoos. Everyone we met looked a little worn from the summer heat, but all had a look of determination to move forward.
Halfway through the journey, we encountered an outgoing person in need, who graciously accepted the Care Canister. This person shared his story, his struggles, and insight on to what it's like to be without a home. Our friend told that out of all the things passersby could give him, the thing he wished for the most was a listening ear. For most of us, the tendency may be to look away and walk on by, but sometimes, a simple “hello” can make a compelling difference.
As we listened to his story, his world and ours grew less distant. He was no longer simply a "homeless person", but rather, he was an acquaintance striking up a conversation along the sidewalk. The stigma and barriers melted away, unveiling a former veteran, a former student, and a person who wanted to live his life in the best way he could. Above all, our friend said he wished that people would simply give him the time of day. We were thankful for the few minutes we had to talk with him.
The Pokemon Go phenomenon is instantly connecting players all over the world and getting people to explore their neighborhoods in a more in-depth and attentive way than ever before. Strangers are becoming friends, and communities are finding common ground. We often go from point A to point B without actively engaging with what is happening around us, especially when it comes to the homeless. We may pass by with either mild annoyance or pity, but without really seeing them for who they are. Pokemon Go may not change the world overnight or end homelessness, but for us, it got us out of the office into our communities.
The next time you’re out playing Pokemon Go, stop and listen to someone in need. Even better, bring a Care Canister.
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