There is a homeless shelter here in Memphis that is unlike most. We both volunteer there and Craig is on the Board of Directors. It was definitely a grassroots start, founded by two women with no experience in nonprofits or running a shelter. You may be surprised to learn this--I was, but most shelters won't take intact families. By intact family I mean either a single parent family or a family with two parents. Almost all shelters separate women and children from men. Most that take women and children, won't take teenage boys. That means that families are split up in the most traumatizing time of their life. Husbands are separated from wives, women are separated from their teenage sons.
The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality is different. It takes the whole family. The facility is a large old house that can only take 3-4 families at a time, depending on how many children there are. All of the furniture is old and most of the linens are used and/or donated. To us, it doens't look like much. To these women who, by the time they arrive, have sold everything they own, having a bed for the children brings them to tears. It's warm and cozy and mostly importantly, safe. Many of them have been living in their cars, or worse.
The stereotype that most of us have about the homeless doesn't usually include families. I think we just can't stomach the idea of homeless children. There are so, so many of them, though. In this time of financial crisis, the face of homelessness is different than in the past. People that you would never dream would end up without a door against the weather are finding themselves in that very position. How many of us, if we lost our jobs, could pay our bills more than 3 or more months, at best. What would you do? Chances are, you'd cut back, work as many small jobs as you could, sell your things, go without for you kids. If you were lucky, that would be enough to get through the hard times. For many people, it just isn't.
Thank God, there are a lot of people who work to help the homeless. The Dorothy Day House works a little differently. It takes families in, usually for eight months or so, and helps them get work, their kids in school, the help them find safe, affordable housing. They set them up with furniture and plates and all the things you lose when you lose everything when. They give them tools to help them get on their feet again like jobs and useful contacts, often staying in close contact for years after the familys' stay. There are many homeless men and women who are unable to ever take that step, and my heart breaks for them. Unfortunately, so many people dismiss them as lazy or too stupid to know any better. This place isn't for those who can't help themselves, but that is exactly the population most shelters serve, fortunately.
I'm helping organize the second annual Family Fun Ride Benefitting The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality. I know that among my friends of such varied talents and backgrounds, I can help raise money to support the house. I'm not one to just jump on the bandwagon of causes. This one is very close to my heart, which is why I'm sharing it with you all. Donations will go to the upkeep of the house, and to clothes, school supplies, and necessities for these very deserving kids and their parents. If you have connections, or have a boss you think might help us out. Please let me know. We're looking mostly for corporate sponsorhips, but Anything Helps! See the link below for info about the Ride!!!