Ed De La Garza
Miriam A. Garcia
Crisis Hotline in crisis
The Houston Crisis Hotline (713-HOTLINE)
is running short of volunteers.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the
Hotline was started in 1970 and was one of the first in the country, originally
intended to deal mainly with drug-related problems.
If your friend's overdosing, who can you
call? Not the police, because they'll arrest him, and not the hospital,
because it might call the police. These concerns are what pushed the founding
of the Hotline.
But it has expanded from its one-sheet
list of organizations to call with these problems, and, through the United
Way, now has a list of 6,000 organizations that deal with all sorts of
situations, including suicide and domestic problems.
In 1990, the Hotline added two new lines,
a Spanish Hotline, and a Teenline (available online at www.teenlink-houston.org).
The Hotline, which has received 2 million
calls in its 30 years of operation and currently receives 125 calls a day,
may have a crisis of its own -- too few people to answer the phone.
The Hotline is entirely volunteer-driven,
and hasn't had to pay people to answer the phones for it. However, that
may be what it has to do, if it doesn't get more volunteers.
No one wants to call a crisis hotline and
receive a busy signal, but the Hotline and Teenline have only 150 volunteers
combined, when the Hotline by itself ideally needs 200.
Volunteers at the service go through intensive
training -- 53 hours of it: 33 in the classroom and then 20 of role-playing
-- to prepare them for their four-hour shifts.
The holiday season is especially troubling
for many people, and the Hotline can probably count on its number of calls
to increase before the year is out.
For those without their own crises to deal
with, volunteering is a great way to spread some of the holiday spirit.
What better way than to help save someone's life with a four-hour shift
at the Crisis Hotline?
Even if you can't volunteer there, however,
consider giving your time to some other group and helping out those who
need it this winter break.
A few hours can make a difference in a
lot of places, like soup kitchens and homeless shelters. A database of
volunteer opportunities in Houston is available online at www.volunteerhouston.org/volunteer/default.htm.
Give a little bit of your time, and help
out those less fortunate than yourself. You might be surprised what a difference
it can make to other people and you.