Thursday, January 15, 2009

A place to lay your head.

We live in a town rich with culture and diversity. We have lots of art and tons of music and then there is the organic food and every sport imaginable, except hockey. We have a lake and a river. We have every food you ever wanted to eat and several markets that cater to the ethnic tastes.

The people are diverse too. We have millionaires, famous poets, famous basketball players, musicians, artists, professors, farmers, ranchers and of course there is me and the architect.

This town is like a little metropolitan fondue pot. Which means it has some of the metropolitan problems as well. Drugs, gangs, crime and the heartbreaking one...homelessness.

Some of the homeless are vagrants, some are panhandlers, some are drunks, some are mentally ill and some are families.

Our town does a good job of helping the homeless. We have a kitchen where they can sit down and eat a warm meal and there is a shelter they can go to get some sleep. But, there wasn't a place for families that had fallen on hard times to go with their children and feel safe.

That's why a group of good people got together and formed The Family Promise Network.

This week my church is the host for the guests in Family Promise. Which means our church has converted classrooms into bedrooms. The people arrive after 5pm and are picked up early in the morning to be taken to the center or school or jobs. One of the secretaries told me she hasn't noticed they are staying in the church at all.

Yesterday, I made muffins for the folks staying at the church. As I dropped the muffins off in the kitchen I looked around and saw that at the end of one of the tables was a highchair.

A baby is homeless.

I walked back into the hall and noticed a paper that had been taped over the regular classroom sign. The paper had the name of a woman and under her name were the names of her three children.

A single mom and her three children are homeless.

I didn't get to meet any of the people that are staying there this week, so I don't have a face in my head, just the thought of a baby and a single mom and her kids not having a home.

When I got home I had all kinds of questions. Questions that didn't have answers.

What do they do if the children get sick?
What do they do on the weekends?
What if one of the adults get sick?
Where do they store their belongings?
Do they have any belongings?
How do they get were they need to go?
Why is this happening?
How can I fix this?

I don't know the circumstances that brought these families to the point of being homeless. I can assume that it's a combination of many things that would make me angry and break my heart.

I'm relieved that they have a safe place to go at night. I'm thankful that people are willing to give of their time to serve these people and help them right their situation.

Saturday I am hoping that Clay and I will be able to attend a training session that will allow us to spend time with the families next time they stay at our church. I would much rather have a face and name in my head than that empty high chair.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that April. Now we all have that visual to spur us as well. The Network sounds like a great idea. I'm glad it is working well in your community.

Donna said...

I linked to this in an entry. Everybody who has a warm place to sleep tonight should be able to give something to those not so fortunate.

Brindi said...

Thank you for your post. We sometimes don't know about all the people in need around us. Thanks for the reminder. You are blessed to be in such a caring community.

Rhea said...

It's so wonderful how much people are willing to go out of their way to help others. It touches me heart. I'd so much rather see this on the news than murder and crime.

Southern Gal said...

When it's so cold outside, my thoughts go toward those who have to stay out in it. It makes me sad. I love the idea your community has. What a blessing to those who need a warm place and a good meal.


Wanda said...

Blogging is new for me. Your post was so moving April, that I had to comment. The empty high chair would haunt me too. It's just wrong for innocent children to experience such lives.

grandmamargie said...

That is heartbreaking. I've always said, "Except for the grace of God, there go I." Lots of times when I think I am cold, I tell myself, I am not cold, the homeless are cold. Thanks for the reminder.

Lisa S. said...

My son has recently noticed homeless people in our town and he can't understand the "why" part of them being homeless. There are so many reasons as to why, but when you see a family and not just one single person it really tears at the heart strings and you can't help but wonder why. I've always had family to help me out in desperate times and the generosity of your church family helping this mother and children in their time of need is a great blessing to them. I thank you for taking time out of your life to make them a nice breakfast of warm muffins to start their day.

Tracie said...

That's a wonderful ministry for your church. I've been thinking about the homeless in our area too with temperatures barely climbing into the teens during the day. It makes me really count my blessings.

Gladys said...

Years ago my first husband decided to quit his job and go back into the military. I had to quit my job and move 1500 miles away. We went from making close to $50K a year to 15K a year. We were brokedy broke broke to quote Bye Bye Pie. Anywho in order to make ends meet I volunteered to give away commodities because we also GOT commodities. I would take my 5 pounds of cheese, my sack of rice, my butter, flour and peanut butter and make it stretch until the next month. We ate a lot of beans and cornbread. We weren't homeless but we were 1 paycheck away from it. My heart goes out to those mothers.

Coffee Bean said...

Beautiful post April! The empty high chair is very symbolic and will no doubt stick in the minds of those who read this. Sharing your heart here and doing what you can are what you can do. For many, the plight of the homeless is not personal and far away...

God Bless

Coffee Bean said...

Ack! You don't have an e-mail button! I just wanted to let you know that I linked to this post on my blog. When I read a really great post by another blogger I like to direct those that read my blog to it.

Joy said...

Oh, this is tearing my heart out! What an awesome ministry your town has. Praying you and Clay get the training you need to reach out in an even bigger way.

I've seen similar things and they never leave me. I'll be going along in my own little world and BAM! wake up call!

A baby is homeless.


Cindy said...

4 1/2 years ago, I was a single mom, homeless with my 4 kids. It's a long story of why it happened, but most of it had to do with an ex-husband who changed his identity and disappeared, my VA disability not kicking in, and simply various other circumstances that left us without income or home.

I knew nothing about the homeless, and assumed we'd go to a shelter where it would be filled with addicts and alcoholics, all male. Not true. It's mostly kids and moms nowadays. Yes, there were some there who did have problems with substance abuse, but most of us were there simply because life kicked us in the butt.

We spent almost all our time at a park or the library. People knew we were homeless and pointed, stared, or made comments. One family, one time, brought me some money, and so we were happy to be able to get some groceries. (I'd never been in the system and didn't know how to get food stamps and whatever help I could get)

Most shelters have lockers for your possessions. We had rooms, and anything valuable, I would take with us. I had a car, as did most of the homeless there. Sometimes you have to have your car to stay in, you see.

If your child gets sick, you take him or her to the hospital or clinic. There you are put down for being homeless, and sometimes, social workers come to interrogate you. If you are sick, you take it or you go through the process I just described.

Looking for a job is nearly impossible. Employers know the shelter address, if you don't have a phone then no one can call you for an interview, and where we were, there were no daycare facilities. Our kids went everywhere with us.

I tried to enroll the kids in school and was shot down because of our address. I had homeschooled before, so we had a year of schooling spent at the library and in the park or the car.

Most homeless do have belongings. They either can rent storage facilities or keep things in their vehicles. We got rid of just about everything before I lost our home, and I had a storage unit for the most important items.

I worked my way out of that, and am now buying my own home. It took time to get back on our feet, but I think we can safely say we are back to "normal" now. It took lots of prayer and lots of work to get this far, though.

A few things that I can think of to actually help are to donate things like diapers, paper towels, light bulbs, shampoos, soaps, whatever else that most food baskets don't contain and that can't be purchased with food stamps. Don't put in expired food into those food baskets. People do that ALL the time, I guess assuming the poor don't mind nasty food. When your kids can sword fight with stale bread that was donated and the bread doesn't break, well... I think it's time for new bread. :-)

One of the most wonderful things that happened while we were in the shelter was that someone brought in a whole bunch of homegrown tomatoes. Oh, my gosh, those were sooo good. Another time, someone brought in a ton of change so we could all get sodas from the machine, or someone would order pizza for us.

Please, please don't assume that Christmas is the only time to help. People are homeless all year round, and it's tragic that kids lose their homes. I've seen the expressions of the kids (including my own)as they came into the shelter, and they are upset, lost, and hurting. People could take things like journals and pens, school supplies, and toys to the kids, oh, and movies, too, are good if the shelter has a dvd player. Clothes, of course, are a given.

This is really long. I don't usually comment like this, but this is an area near and dear to my heart. And since we went through this, my sons have volunteered in shelters and in soup kitchens. We donate whatever we can to the local shelters. All of my kids have a tender spot in their hearts for those who are homeless.

We have to laugh, though, when people do the whole thing where they spend one night in a box on the street. Being homeless is a degrading, horrible experience and you are judged immediately by others. Spending one night out, voluntarily, isn't the same thing at all.

Just... treat the homeless like people, and you'll be helping. There was a large newspaper article written about us in the local paper, and when that came out, many people we'd meet in the park came up to me and would say things like, "I didn't realize you were so educated." "I didn't know why this had happened to you." That stuff shouldn't matter. The why isn't important, you see. It's the NOW that matters.


Anonymous said...

Homelessness can hit any family at any time. My older brother is a severe alcoholic and has been homeless more often than not for 30 years. We have tried to help him so many times -- to the point my parents almost went bankrupt. It's a horrible feeling not know where your brother is, whether or not he's safe, warm, fed. My husband and I went to Las Vegas last February and our shuttle bus driver was making fun of the homeless people lying on the median of the road. Everyone in the bus was laughing except for my husband and me. John does not show up often. The last time I saw him was 2 years ago. I don't know where he is now and all I can do is send my prayers and pray that God takes care of him. Thanks for the post.


Trisha said...

What a mental picture you conjured with this post. Thank God people care enough to provide places for these people to sleep where it is warm!

April said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

I'll try to grow enough tomatoes this year to go share with the shelter, that's a great idea.

April said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your brother, I hope he can find a way back and I pray that he is safe somewhere.

Nettie said...

Here in Minnesota the past few days the temps have been at -27 and -33 at 7:00 am, and I keep thinking about the folks who are homeless. There are several communities here that have church-shelter programs such as yours, and they are such a blessing. Get your family as involved as you can. It will change your children's lives.

I hope you don't mind if I link to you, as well.

Stephanie in Idaho said...

I think back to those now famous pictures of a destitute 'migrant worker' back in the depression. Unfortunately we will be seeing those pictures again soon with the economy 'issues' we are having.

I truly pray that this is over soon so that more of us will be in a financial position to help those less fortunate.

Deborah said...

I work in a library. It is a sanctuary for many homelss people during the summer and winter. Once a patron insisted that we kick them out. "They" were sitting around reading the paper, not bothering anyone. Generally, the homeless (actually, we're assuming they are) are better behaved than most people. We collect food for a homeless shelter near us. I cannot imagine surviving on the street with children. I'm happy there are people who will help.

Heidi said...

It might be cold here, but I have a home for my kids - thanks for reminding me that I have it GOOD!!! prayers for those little buggers

Cynthia said...

This is such a nice post, I hope you are able to do more for them next time around. I too am grateful to have a warm place to live, and all of the comforts we have.

And totally not important and I should not even put it in this comment but I love your 3 columns. Rechelle used to have a link for 3 columns and I have tried and tried and never been able to do it. Kudos to you!

Karen Deborah said...

WOW, that's cool your church and your family are getting involved. I saw some homeless people out in the snow in Chicago during a blizzard. I really wondered if they were still alive in the morning.

50s Housewife said...

April, we have Family Promise here too and in fact I have volunteered for them at the center.

In answer to the medical care question, Family Promise volunteers make sure the children are signed up for Medicaid and will take them to the doctor in the center's van. The family can use the center's address and phone number when they apply for jobs or government assistance.

aprilshowrs78 said...

What a wonderful post.

I also thought, I'd share with you that my name is April, my brother's name is Clay, and I use aprilshowrs as my username for most things. Just thought that was neat. :o)

Beth said...

w00t for you April! I'm glad to see this post. I know we can't always be aware of the challenges and suffering of others, but it is a good thing to bring awareness.

The Harrigan Family said...

Beautiful thoughts- may our compassion grow every day-

Cindy-thanks for your testimony- it was also beautiful and may the Lord continue to direct your paths and hearts!

Sally said...

I've not read such a heart warming post such as this in a very long time. Thank God there are people like you and those in your church to help others who are down and out. The high chair got to me; the significance is chilling to say the least.

Thank you for the reminder that we are all God's children and need to take care of each other.

carsick said...

April, what an awesome post. I feel like a spoiled big fat crybaby brat. Now maybe I'll do something about it.

I am in awe of you. You are inspiring. I hope you and your children nothing but the best.

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