When you picture a homeless person, what do you see? If you’re like many people, the first image that pops into your head is probably an older man holding a cardboard sign at a busy intersection. But though there are many homeless men struggling to survive out on the streets, the face of homelessness has changed drastically in recent years — and it includes more families with children than ever before.
Families with children are one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. In fact, 41% of homeless people are families — that’s almost half! The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that, of every 200 children in America, 3 are currently homeless and more than 6 are at immediate risk of becoming homeless. Their precarious living situation — always on the run — is devastating for kids, especially where education is concerned. According to the Institute for Children and Poverty, homeless children are 9 times more likely to repeat a grade, 4 times more likely to drop out of school, and 3 times more likely to be placed in special education than children who have a stable residence. The need for shelter for homeless families is far outstripping the number of facilities equipped to help them, but Shepherd’s Gate is standing in the gap, providing a safe, warm, stable home to as many homeless children as possible, while also helping their mothers get back on their feet again as they heal from abuse and addiction. When you picture a homeless child, what do you see? I hope you see what I do: a young life that’s extremely precious to God, a life that needs our love and protection to grow up healthy and happy. It’s easier to help a homeless child than you might think. From volunteering in our Childcare Center, to tutoring, to donating a Christmas gift or two, there are all kinds of ways to help homeless families. Even a simple donation to Shepherd’s Gate can have a huge impact. Talk to your kids, and ask them to share their ideas for how to help homeless kids this Christmas — their creativity and generosity will surprise you. Please share your family’s ideas in the comments section below! May God bless you and your family this Christmas!
Steve McRee Executive Director, Shepherd’s Gate