We’ve had some very atypical weather here in the past two months: downpouring rain for days, hail, even snow and ice. It got me thinking of a story I shared in a past newsletter and I wanted to share it with you again. I was at a local park recently, and it began to rain. People picked up their children and dogs and ran towards their vehicles to escape the downpour, I was one of them. As I got into my car, I breathed a sigh of relief and cranked the heater. I sat there for a moment so grateful for my warm car and for the fact that I would be driving to my warm home. It was then, that I was struck with the thought, “What if I couldn’t escape the cold and the rain, what if I had to live, not in the safety of a home but in the danger of the streets?” It was a late afternoon and beginning to get dark, as I sat there in my car, with the rain drumming loudly in my ears, I thought about the people who would be cold and shivering tonight, tucked under bridges or up under the eaves of buildings, trying to stay dry. Have you ever tried to think what it would be like to be homeless? Have you ever imagined having no place to sleep at night, no money to buy food, no friends and family to help you in times of need? I have, ever since I encountered my first homeless person begging on the streets of San Diego.
I remember my heart breaking upon seeing the man sitting there on the corner, dressed in layers of filthy clothing, holding out his hand to people who passed him by as if he wasn’t even there. I was about seven years old, and I remember asking my dad for some money to give to the man. My father, being a man of wisdom and compassion, surprisingly said no. He explained to me that the money probably would not go towards food, but drugs or alcohol, and that would not bee good for him. My father went on to say that he sent money monthly to a homeless mission to care for people like the man I saw. As we walked away from the man on the corner, I remember thinking in my seven-year-old mind that I didn’t care what he would buy with the money- HE DIDN’T HAVE A HOME!!According to the Urban Institute, 3.5 million people in the U.S. will experience homelessness in a given year. One million of those people are children, who represent about 39% of the homeless population in America! Approximately 23% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness. (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2003) In most states a minimum wage worker would have to work 89 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing. (National Low Income Housing Coalition) The reasons for homelessness are as diverse as the population of people that are called homeless. Whether the reason is drug and/or alcohol addiction, mental illness, domestic violence or poverty, the millions of people who will be counted among America’s homeless is growing. As individuals, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the numbers and statistics and think we can’t make a difference with such a nationwide problem. When we remember though, that behind each number and each statistic is a name, a face, a person, and a good reason to try to affect change, even if it is one person at a time. “Home is where the Heart is.”
“Home Sweet Home” Two very familiar quotes that say the same thing—Home is important. Your support of Shepherd’s Gate is providing a place for many women and children who have lived on the streets or in their cars. Because of your support, they now have a place they can call HOME. Some Facts About Homelessness • Nearly one in five children (more than twelve million) in the U.S live in poverty (U.S Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, October 2000 Update). The U.S child poverty rate is higher than that of most other industrialized nations. • 46% of cities surveyed by the U.S Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness ( U.S Conference of Mayors) • Recent research indicates that even mild under-nutrition experienced by young children during critical periods of growth may lead to reductions in physical growth and affect brain development (The Links Between Nutrition and Cognitive Development of Children Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy). • Families are the largest and fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
Jen Harp Director of Marketing, Shepherd’s Gate