Homelessness Awareness Week began on November 12th. Educating our community about the plight of the impoverished and homeless is a task that will pay big returns. Some of our neighbors may have a stereotypical image in their minds of what homelessness looks like. They may picture someone pushing an old shopping cart filled with stuff or someone sleeping on a park bench or under a bridge. But according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 41% of the homeless population in America is comprised of families. Because parents are afraid of losing custody of their kids, homeless families aren’t always easily visible. They may sleep a few nights in a car. Cheap hotels quickly use up finances. Couch surfing is the term used to describe homeless who bounce from friend to friend or family member; staying on a temporary basis until the extra bodies become too burdensome or expensive for the host. Don’t be lulled into thinking that because you don’t see children sleeping on park benches that homelessness doesn’t exist in our county.
In 2015, Family Promise of Carbon County sheltered 65 individuals; 22 of those were UNDER 5 years of age. We welcome these guests into our churches and congregations and begin the process of changing their lives. Our average length of stay last year was just 67 days. In that short amount of time, we do more than just provide healthy meals and a safe place to sleep together as a family. Our guests receive intense case management services to identify both skills and barriers to self sufficiency. Most importantly, our homeless guests meet many loving volunteers each week. Guests gain visibility and advocates within the community with every meal and fellowship hour they share with our volunteers. Volunteers learn that homeless families aren’t criminals who roam the street or deal drugs.
The Family Promise program is a successful model.
This year, we issue a challenge to our volunteers. Find someone who has an negative opinion of our homeless guests and tell them about our families.