Friday, October 23, 2009

Can I get some assistance, please? Part II

Sometimes all that we can offer people in need is our attention. As the economy continues to limp along, every program that serves those in need is feeling the increased demand. Sometimes the resources to help are simply not available.

Today, was not one of those days in my office. Yesterday, I wasn't sure that the $575 mountain I had to climb could be successfully scaled. I guess I didn't have adequate faith. Tonight, the family that was perched on the edge of homelessness yesterday is secure in their apartment for a little while longer.

I put out the call this morning. Through facebook and email I told the story of the family and people responded. Between my own church, and the Pastor of a UCC church that is close by, and individuals from my church and others - we reached out goal.

My plea for assistance was answered in this case. What I heard from those responding is that the funds have been emptied, or overdrawn. The barrel is being scraped. The next time I may not be so fortunate.

Secular and government agencies that respond to people in crisis are also out of money - until November at least, and in some cases until the beginning of the new calendar year. The family we helped today is one of too many. Way too many.

The next time, all I may have to give is my attention.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Can I get some assistance, please?

Some of us are stuck in the trenches, while everyone else seems to be engaged in debates of national importance. There is no doubt that the national and international issues of the day are important. I just can't get beyond the fundamental issues in the trenches.

Today, like many days, $575 is going to decide whether a woman, her kids, her adult daughter and her daughter's 3-day old infant are going to be homeless on Saturday. The head of household, I will call her Janessa (not her real name), is a single mom. She works hard but doesn't make much money. Her story is like the many stories I hear every month from people in various states of economic crisis who are just trying to keep from getting evicted.

You know what, $575 is really not that much money. But it might as well be $1,000 or $10,000 because if her landlord doesn't have the money in hand at 3pm on Friday - well Janessa and her family will have 24 hours to get out of their home.

The church I work for and many other churches in my community have been providing emergency assistance to families like Janessa's for years now. Tens of thousands of dollars are transferred between the contributions of church members and the very poor every year in the form of small grants. The problem is that this assistance, combined with government funds and other private agency funds are inadequate compared to the need. All of these funding sources assume that families in need require a one time boost to get on their feet. But most of these very low income families are so vulnerable that they repeatedly need help. And the help is not there. A more comprehensive solution to their plight is needed.

Last week there were 17 separate voicemail messages on my office line seeking help to prevent an eviction or to assist with getting housing after a period of homelessness. Most of these households include young children.

"I was wondering if I could help some assistance with my rent?"

Yes, assistance is what they need and what I need too. I wish that politicians of all stripes and every position, had to sit in my chair and look a mother in the eyes and say, "I don't think I am going to be able to help you avoid losing your home." And I wish that we could add to local, state, and national debates the issue of homelessness and impoverishment of so many families with children.

Can I get some assistance....please?