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* the faces of our homeless

February 12, 2019

Our church does a variety of things to try to be a good neighbor. One of them is to participate in a program called Project Hope where a collection of churches each provide a month of housing for about 15 homeless, mostly children and their parent(s). February is the month our congregation does this. I do a very minimal amount of work related to this by sleeping over a night or two each year as we have volunteers present when the families are there overnight from about 6pm to 730am (the program takes them to another location during the day). In so doing I have the opportunity to gain even just little glimpses of the faces and new insights about the lives of a few of our nation’s homeless. One year this included a mom who was 9 months pregnant (I was relieved to not have any extra excitement that night). Or a dad with a one- and a two-year-old (mom no longer part of the picture), patiently getting them up and ready and fed before the Sunday morning bus picked them up.

These are our folks, people. They have no more interest in being homeless than we would. But Section 8 housing, which was designed for low-income people, is so backed up most of the waiting lists are closed at this point. As in “don’t bother to even try.” The vacancy rate of apartments in the Twin Cities is less than 2.5%. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,200. The benefit for what used to be called “Welfare-to-Work” is less than $400 and hasn’t been adjusted in 30 years. Back then that was enough to rent a one bedroom apartment. You can do the math now.

One way to measure the success of a society is how well the wealthy are doing. By that standard we could hardly do any better. Another way is to determine how well a society takes care of its own people, especially those who are struggling. By this standard, not so much. As here in Minnesota about 50% of our homeless are children 5 years old and younger.

We can do better. We must do better.

From → Learning, Life, Poverty

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