Shared Housing Services here in Tacoma, Conklin has to choose which families, from among the many worthy applicants, will end up with a temporary home and practical help in starting a more stable life. A word left out of a story feels no pain. A homeless child left without shelter does.
"I currently have two, 'one-plus' bedroom units available," Conklin said. "However, I have about seven families that are looking for housing. The majority are living with friends, 'couch surfing.' One is staying in the car and motels when they can afford them."
In addition to providing opportunities for home sharing through their Referral/Match service, SHS owns about a dozen housing units for their Transitional Family Housing program. It isn't a handout. The program offers a hand up, a chance for families to recuperate from whatever situation caused them to be homeless in the first place. The head of the family needs to at least be looking for a job and they do pay a modest amount for rent while receiving mentoring, counseling, and educational classes in life management skills and parenting.
Have you ever tried to prepare for a job interview when you have no good clothes, no shower, no child care, and not even a good night's sleep because you spent it in a car? I can't think of anything more depressing, except not even having the car for shelter. Even people with homes, a wardrobe, and easy access to good hygiene can't find work these days, so imagine the courage it takes to even try when you have so many disadvantages. But by offering basic stability, SHS makes all the difference. They have permanently changed lives. You can read all about it in a feature article I wrote for a website called Neighborhood Life. The success stories told there will warm your heart, just as they do Conklin's.
|SHS clients know the meaning of Thanksgiving|
That's all good, but in today's tough economy the need keeps growing. Each month Shared Housing Services meets 400 NEW individuals seeking alternative housing through their Referral/Match and Transitional Housing programs combined. That means 1,600 homeless people in this local community alone will desperately need the help of SHS between November 2010 and February 2011, the coldest months of the year.
"There is a tremendous need for affordable housing," Conklin said,"and with the holiday season fast approaching, a place to call 'home' is very important!" Your help could change the lives of people who are trying hard to get back on their feet. Please consider getting involved in this exercise in compassion. If you'd like to help, please click on this link.
Many people in Tacoma have made a commitment to SHS. "A great big 'thank you' goes out to Auto Warehousing Company for supplying our TFH families and staff with Thanksgiving turkeys every year!" Conklin said. Her gratitude reflects that of all the familes she's met and helped.
In the words of SHS Executive Director Byron Cregeur, "There is probably no other time of the year when a home is so much more than just a place to live. Home is where we invite friends and family to our house for a feast and they are greeted with the aroma of turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving! Home is where your Christmas tree comes alive with ornaments of memories..."
I've met some of these kids and I hate to think of their memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas involving hunger and cold. Don't you? They are our fellow Americans, right here at home, and many more live only one missing paycheck away from the same situation. Think about it, please.
|Remember that many victims of homelessness are children.|
Photos are the property of Shared Housing Services and cannot be used without permission. Text of this post is copyrighted by Candace J. Brown 2010