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?

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