Here’s something new: I’ve got a new freelance gig, working for a Christian organization. I know, right? I can hardly believe it either. But lest you think I’ve gone off my meds and round the bend, let me assure you these are left-coast Christians and thus all about the loving-thy-neighbor and the feeding-the-poor and not at all about the shaming-the-queers and the sending-to-hell. So I’m happy about the job and feel good about writing grants for this organization. I just hope it doesn’t tarnish my heathen cred.
Here’s something that’s hard to think about: When people, especially women, become homeless (for whichever of the many possible reasons), their children become homeless, too. There’s no magic wall of safety between a minor child and the street except a parent, and sometimes the parental wall crumbles. There’s no facility where you can just drop your kids off and say, “Hey, I’m in a bit of trouble here, I’ve got no place to stay, and I can hack that, I’m a grown-up, but kids can’t be homeless, so keep an eye on junior ’til I get myself together, ‘kay?” No, if you are on the street your kids are, too. If you can’t take a shower, your kids can’t, either. If you’re hungry, so are they.
In the most recent one-night count of the homeless in King County, which includes Seattle, 34 percent of the people spending the night in the shelters were children ages 0–17. That’s about 2,100 kids. Which is not to say that there are plenty of shelter beds for kids. In fact, a mother with one or more children will have to wait at least a month to get a spot in a shelter. A month.
The organization I am going to raise grant money for helps homeless women and their children. It offers a safe place to go during the day. It provides meals. Women and kids can shower there, wash their clothes, use the phone, see a nurse, get support, get counseling, and feel loved in a warm place out of the never-ending rain. And when a woman comes in with children and there’s no shelter for them in a multi-county region, the organization provides a voucher for a hotel night. Because children shouldn’t have to sleep under bridges, no matter how legion their parents’ failures may be.
The program is an offshoot of a church that was established specifically to minister to homeless women. On weekends, non-denominational services are held for anyone who wishes to attend. Everyone is welcome. No one is shunned. This church is for those who have lost their way, those who have been abandoned, those who have been abused, and those who can see only darkness from where they are standing. The pastor, the employees, the volunteers, and the donors shine God’s love, as they see it, on those who need it the most. And that, my friends, is religion done right.