“My Mom told me to come and get you because the squirrel fell out of the tree and broke it’s arm. She said maybe you would know what to do”
For the third time since October, I’m volunteering for a community program known as “Family Promise”. It is a faith based program designed to give homeless families a hand up, not a hand out, in figuring out how to get housing, a job, find resources, etc. The families travel from church to church around the city, about 25 in all, every three months or so. The churches sponsor the families for supper, a room to sleep in, things to pack a bag lunch if they need it, and a cold or grab and go breakfast through the week. During the day, the kids go to school, and the parents will go to the Family Promise Day Center or to work, depending on the circumstance. I recall seeing for sure two dads in the program, and one ended up being sent back to Oklahoma because he violated his parole unknown to his wife until the system caught up to him. The other dad was a single dad in his 40’s, maybe older, dealing with an energetic 2 year old alone. Mom was a meth addict. Not sure if she was doing rehab or not. The families arrive on Sunday evening, stay the week, then leave for the next church on the following Sunday morning. Each week is a new sleeping location. Not ideal, but it’s a safer alternative than sleeping on the streets, having your children taken by children’s services, or sleeping in a car and still having your children taken by children’s services.
I will also say this is the first time in a month or so that I’ve had consistent wifi that I didn’t have to ride my bike any where from 1 to 4 miles or so to access. Blessing.
The time in the program depends upon how long it takes the adult (usually only one) in the family to access housing other than the rotation of the church. The program is MUCH better than the local faith based shelter who says they provide shelter for families, but they do not. They cater mostly to the alcoholic or addict looking to get clean, even shortchanging the domestic abuse victims for some reason. I’m not going to get on that soap box, though. Let it be said that the local mission does not make it easy for families to stay there and get on their feet. It’s ok for an emergency and VERY short term.
With it being spring, the kids can get outside and poke around, play on the church playground or go to the library that is across the street. City churches have a lot to offer to some extent. The program is really beneficial. The children are coping with the ordeal of no home, one parent, possible domestic abuse or addictions, estranged extended family, going to school, trying to keep up with other community programs like scouting or the like. It isn’t easy. So, when the young lady came home from the library calling to her mom about the squirrel that broke it’s leg, the group reacts like any family. A lot of questions raised, then the ultimate “lets go ask “MOM” she’ll know what to do” I’m old enough to be a parent to the adults and a grandparent to the children. I got up from the table praying to myself, please dear Lord let the poor thing have run away from the action. No. Not so. The squirrel had suffered some kind of trauma not visible to the eye of a child or me either, but I suspected as much. It wasn’t breathing very much, a breath after a long pause. It was dying, which I told the girl. She asked “are you sure you can’t do anything for it? How do you know.” As I searched for an explanation I watched the squirrel stop it’s breathing the last time. I told her that I believed it was hurt really badly and that it was dying, that in fact that I thought it stopped just then. She took a stick and poked it and agreed, saying something like poor thing and what will you do with it? I told her I would find a pair of gloves and put it in the garbage. (Having lived homeless and sometimes meatless, I thought that the squirrel could have been a decent meal for any enterprising homeless guy who could have happened along. They didn’t. It reminded me of the coconuts in Florida that homeless would scrounge after storms).
Homeless kids have to have normal interactions in spite of the trauma that is going on around them. Keeping them safe, keeping them on a schedule, keeping them fed are all in a day’s routine. Treating them with respect is important. These kids have it hard enough dealing with the life style and stigma that comes with it among their peers. She ran off to tell her mom that the squirrel “passed away” and took it in stride. Life goes on. Death goes on. It doesn’t matter if you are homeless or not. Taking the time to care enough to answer the question of a child, the question of anyone for that matter doesn’t cost a thing. Not doing it can cost YOU, though. Jesus taught us to take care of widows and orphans. Today’s widows and orphans are single moms and dads, homeless, poor, struggling to survive. Lay on the icing of no faith and no Jesus and you have a recipe for all kinds of hurt and pain. If you are a Christian, then it is your responsibility as said in the Holy Bible and taught by Jesus and the apostles. This world is hard enough to get through when you have faith. When you are a child, with one parent, no home, don’t know Jesus even exists, you look for honesty from the adults that are around you. We as Christians have a responsibility especially to these children.
There is Hope coming. God knows the timing of it. The world needs Hope and God wants as many of His children to come back to Him as He can get. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in anyone’s life, and you may be the only person that gives that “anyone” a chance to find Christ in your actions. Put on your armor of God, act your faith and stop being afraid of answering hard questions. And stop sitting on the fence with your faith.
Pastor Sylvia, Tree of Hope Ministries