In this year of political diatribes and accusations in the lead-up to the presidential election, 2.5 million children and their parents in the United States will experience homelessness. With varied causes, from lost jobs and health problems to addiction and domestic violence, more and more families are finding themselves without a place to call home.
In the once-yearly homeless count performed in January of this year in my little bitty county in Florida, 211 children were homeless. Back in the great state of Texas in that same point-in-time census, 713 children were homeless in Dallas County alone. Think on that for a moment. Let it settle in, as you grab a bottle of water or another cup of coffee. We aren’t talking about men with long, unkempt beards holding brown bags full of whiskey bottles. We’re talking about children. With no home, no bed, no bathtub, no sink, and no possessions beyond what they carry in a suitcase, if they are lucky enough to have one.
I’m sitting outside on the deck with the river in view and a breeze blowing my hair around as I type on a laptop computer that will need charging in a few minutes. Because I live here, I can go plug in and keep writing. But what if I didn’t live here, or anywhere? If a series of life events led to me being a homeless mom with a child, how would we survive? How could we cook our food? Where would we shower? Brush our teeth?
The church we’ve adopted is joining in with a nationwide movement to help pull families with children out of homelessness. Through Family Promise, over 700,000 family members have been provided shelter, meals, and services. Moms and dads are housed with their dependent children in churches for one week at a time. Since parents don’t have to worry about the next meal or finding a safe place for their kids to sleep, they can devote their time to finding jobs and establishing habits that will lead to independence. In our county, it takes an average of 33 days to move a family into a self-supporting home, although the national average is 60 days. Family Promise teaches budgeting and life skills and helps parents find better jobs.
So the week after next, we’ll get to interact with four homeless families who will live in our church building for one week. Among them will be two eight-month-old babies, a toddler, a 9 year old, a 12 year old, a 14 year old, and their parents. The homeless epidemic is about to become personal for us as we roll up our sleeves and do something instead of just lamenting about it. My husband and I have the easiest job ever — staying overnight just one night with the families. All we have to do is sleep. But we plan to help the kids with their homework and try to get to know the people behind the statistics. They are real and Jesus loves them, and that means I love them, too. We won’t judge them, we won’t preach to them, and we won’t look down at them. Rather, we will love them, just as they are, just as Jesus does. I can’t wait to meet them and am so glad our church is stepping up to meet this need in our community.
Because of her stance on abortion rights, many of my conservative Christian friends are dismayed to find that I am supporting Hillary Clinton. To these friends I say that my faith compels me to be equally concerned with life outside the womb — with the thousands of children in our country that have no place to call home. Hillary Clinton wants to increase public/non-profit partnerships like Family Promise to help curb the rise of homelessness in America. She has educated herself not just about homeless statistics but also about some of the causes and solutions as well. It is always a good sign when leaders go out of their way to find solutions that work and then use their status as leaders to encourage those kinds of solutions in other places. It is encouraging to me to see a presidential candidate creating policies that will benefit the least of these. The poorest of the poor may have no political power, but they are being heard, at least by this candidate:
I want to see America become a place of safety for the homeless children and families our church will be housing in a couple of weeks. I don’t think our nation has any business calling itself “great” while thousands of children sleep in cars, in shelters, and in parks. This is a problem we CAN solve, together.
Based on her past actions, her current proposals and her comments about the issue, I believe Hillary Clinton can be their president, as well as mine and yours.