Homeless children

I suppose I could write an entire journal entry explaining why we had a box of cute baby clothes for an infant girl. Our caught is 37 years old. She was 12 when we moved into this house. You could say it was because of nostalgia. You might say that it was because we hoped to have another granddaughter some day. You could say it was because not all of her cousins wore hand-me-downs. The bottom line, however, was that the box of freshly-laundered and slightly out-of-fashion baby clothes was among the things that we need to shed as we prepare to move our household. It is pretty clear that we won’t be needing those baby clothes.

I’ve been taking a lot of things to various agencies that have thrift stores as we prepare to move. Sometimes I’ve had three or four packed boxes of merchandise in one trip. When we had planned our move, we hadn’t suspected that this summer would be the time when our church wasn’t able to have a rummage sale. The congregations we have served have always held rummage sales and this church had large rummage sales twice a year - until they didn’t. The pandemic meant that the church wouldn’t have had enough volunteers to mount a sale. It also meant that they wouldn’t have the usual number of customers for a sale. And the church had enacted policies to help prevent the spread of disease that made a sale impossible this summer. The one time they didn’t have a sale was the same time that we had planned to donate a lot of things.

All of those years of having a sale, however, combined with years of serving this community to give me a good sense of where the items could be donated so that they would go to the best use. So baby clothes needed to go to one of two shelters in our community. One in three woman in America have experienced some form of domestic violence. Often women leave dangerous home situations with children and without a safe place to go. Working Against Violence, Inc. in Rapid City provides temporary shelter to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. They operate a 13-bedroom shelter. The other institution in our community that is in need of clothing for infants is the Women and Children’s Home operated by the Cornerstone Rescue Mission. Families are the fastest growing segment of homelessness. Many of those families are single mothers with multiple preschool children. In no state in the United States does a full-time minimum wage job cover the cost of a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent. The Mission provides temporary shelter and assistance to an average of 350-400 women and children annually. That adds up to a yearly average of 9,500 overnight stays to their guests.

The pandemic has resulted in a shortage of donations to the Cornerstone Rescue Mission. In addition to lower donations from the general public, the City of Rapid City reduced the mission’s budget by $70,000 in 2019. Additional cuts are likely as the city experiences decreases in income the the pandemic. We decided to take the box of baby clothes to the Mission Women and Children’s Shelter.

With the pandemic, the process of donation has been slightly altered. Rather than take the clothes to the Mission’s thrift store, we wanted to get them directly to the shelter, which also receives donations of items for which they have immediate need. At the shelter, there is a sign directing donors to place boxes next to the door and ring the bell. As soon as the donor steps away from the door a staff member comes out to pick up the donation. When I dropped off the box yesterday, the staff person gave me a big smile and a wave as she took the box into the shelter. I had visions of mothers, living in the tiny one-bedroom units of the shelter, struggling to deal with babies who go through several sets of clothes each day. One or two new outfits might make a big difference. Those moms probably wouldn’t be worried that the clothes are not the latest fashion. They are clean and nice and barely used. They might even bring a smile to a weary face.

There are so many reasons that people end up without homes, but the bottom line is that hard-working people end up without adequate housing. The myth that homeless occurs only to those who don’t want to work simply is not the truth. However the myth persists. Within the last week a local businessman testified before a state legislative committee that his business was hurt because he couldn’t hire enough workers. He complained that increased unemployment benefits made it impossible for him to find the workers he needed. He seemed to have no understanding of the fact that the pandemic has left children at home without care and forced parents to decrease their working hours. More importantly, this prominent businessman seems to have forgotten a basic principle of capitalism - supply and demand. A lack of supply increases demand and drives the price up. That businessman has a shortage of workers because he is unwilling to pay the price. When full-time work doesn’t make rent and groceries, you might not be paying the costs to compete in the market in which you are competing.

Dear God, We sing, “Jesus loves the little children.” and we know of your great compassion for the children of our community and of the world. Help us to reflect that love by the decisions we make. There are infants and children in our community who, through no fault of their own, lack simple, decent and safe housing. In addition to those who are homeless, hundreds more live in inadequate housing and lack the basic shelter all people need. Inspire us once again to go to work to provide for the needs of your children who live in poverty and experience homelessness. May we strengthen our community to provide for the needs of our neighbors. In Christ we pray, Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!