Last week, I spent the holidays in Kansas with my family. We spent a lot of time in the house: playing with the dogs, making dinner, challenging one another in board game matches, unwrapping gifts. As poet Margaret Elizabeth Sangster says, “There’s nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.”
The warmth of family, paired with the warm security of “home” made this a wonderful holiday. But as I enjoyed my time with them, my thoughts continually returned to my homeless neighbors.
Unfortunately, also last week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report that confirmed what homeless advocates have been saying all year. Homelessness is on the rise. Family homelessness, especially. That means more children slept in emergency shelters, in cars, and on unfamiliar couches.
The report demonstrated a nine percent increase in family homelessness – and that’s almost certainly an undercount. As Maria Foscarinis, the Law Center’s executive director, explained in a Christmas Day interview on NPR, the report’s counts are “limited by existing shelter capacity, which we know is grossly insufficient to meet the need. The national estimate is that only about half of all homeless people are actually sheltered, and that’s due to lack of shelter capacity.”
The report garnered a lot of media attention. In addition to the NPR interview, the Law Center’s comments on the increase in homelessness appeared on Minnesota Public Radio, United Press International (UPI), the Huffington Post, and the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch. Behind each of the families who experienced homelessness this year, there is a story, and there is hope.
There are just three days left in 2010. My resolution for 2011 is to work to see a dramatic decline in homelessness. In what remains of this year, please consider making a financial contribution to support the battle to end homelessness in the year to come. Together, we can make sure that more families spend the holidays at home next year.
-Whitney Gent, Development & Communications Director