Homeless Families and Empty Sunday School Classrooms
I got a call the other morning from my friend Justin. A family that he has known for several years through his youth ministry told him that they were being evicted. This mom of three kids between the ages of 9-14 had been paying $650 a month to rent a travel trailer. When she lost her house cleaning job that was paying her under the table, she could no longer pay the rent. Her neighbor has offered her the back of her truck to sleep in for the night and that might be where they end up staying.
Justin called me because in his words, “that is unacceptable.” He wants to help the family but doesn’t know what resources are available to the family and he is trying to get his church to do something about it but that bureaucratic process will be a long one which will end up with help being too little, to late.
The frustrating thing is, I don’t really know what to do either. Despite the fact that social workers in our organization deal with families like this everyday I have little help to offer. If they do not fit our relatively narrow qualifications for immediate financial, assistance we have no place to send them.
The reality is there is NOTHING in our immediate area that is set up to help families like this. Evicted, broke, out of work… I want someone or something to blame for this dilemma. I jump automatically to the family, they should have called sooner, they must have some sort of addiction stuff going on, they must be lazy.
The reality is stark though. Whatever the cause is of this family’s crisis, our local system in Bellflower has nothing for this specific family. 211, the LA county resource call center, will refer her to a shelter out of the area and or give her access to hotel vouchers for a few nights but there is nothing after that. What is the answer? Shelters are expensive financially and socially. Immediate financial assistance will not really help in the long run because of her eviction. What the family needs is a LOCAL place for at least 3 months were they can land long enough for mom to get a job and the kids don’t have to leave their school.
What will we as God’s people in this city do? We have resources. We have people. We have money. We have buildings (approximately 30 church buildings with countless classrooms that sit empty 90% of the week.) I wonder what Jesus feels about that? With hurting and poor neighbors all around us, is Jesus pleased with our clean and tidy classrooms that sit empty, preserved for telling Bible stories to the kids of the saints a couple of days a week?
Would it be possible to set up a Hospitality Network in Bellflower like this one? http://www.familypromise.org/ihn-video What do you think?