The Medieval Bestseller
I read it somewhere on the Internet...
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

One of the things I'm most proud of that I'm involved with lately is being a part of a group of people in my area that's trying to do something to help those families who have become homeless because of situational things in their life. This all started because my church used to contribute to an organization called the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission. A year or two after we started contributing to this organization, I left for Princeton and shortly thereafter the mission committee (of which I am a part) sent news to me that the organization wasn't really very organized and didn't seem to be having an impact upon the homeless like we had hoped they would.

It happened that I was working for the Bonner Foundation and was interviewing people they give grants to, included in which was Family Promise/Interfaith Hospitality Network of Mercer County. Additionally, I was attending a church about an hour away that participated in Family Promise of Union County. I was learning about this organization that seemed like it'd be a good fit for what my church was looking for, but there were no networks in Southern California. So, I told them of the organization and suggested that perhaps there's some other organization that's doing something similar or maybe they could even contact Family Promise to see what they could do to set up a network.

For those who aren't in the know and didn't visit the website above, Family Promise is this organization that helps families who are situationally homeless (a little known fact is that the average age of a homeless person is 9 years old). Say you have a family and you live paycheck to paycheck and an event happens and you find yourselves homeless because you can't pay your rent (for instance, that you lose your job or have an emergency hospitalization). Because of that you can't pay your rent so now your family is homeless. What Family Promise does is organize a network of faith communities (churches, synagogues, etc.) that share the burden of housing and feeding your family for a week at a time. During the day, you meet with a social worker who screens you to be sure you can fit within the program (no mental illness, drugs, etc.) and then helps you with credit counseling, budgeting, finding a job, etc. The family stays with the program until they're able to secure transitional or permanent housing. What is amazing is that last year 80% of the families enrolled in Family Promise found transitional or permanent housing, accomplished at a national average of something incredible like 52 days. Nationally (there are something like 140 networks across the country), this accounts for helping 30,000 people out of poverty a year.

Fast forward to last year or the year before last. The mission committee at my church began talking with Family Promise and started getting the wheels into motion. This year in January, a representative from Family Promise came out to Burbank to see what could be done by meeting with various leaders of faith communities throughout the San Fernando Valley. Now, months later, I am involved along with about 30-ish people from varying faith communities throughout Burbank, Glendale and North Hollywood in setting up a Family Promise network out here. It is work and will continue to be more and more work, but it's good work. It's work that will help homeless families, but that will also help the community at large. It's also work that will give me the ability to get to know more people in the area who are committed to working out their faith in action. I am proud of Family Promise and proud of my involvement with it.

I bring this up because of two reasons. The first was that I went to a committee meeting tonight. I was tempted to play tennis instead, to be the fourth in my dad's doubles group, which I enjoy playing with. In the end, perhaps an hour before the meeting, I decided not to play tennis and to follow through with my convictions. The second reason is that I just finished reading A Life for God: The Mother Teresa Reader. I think I borrowed this book from Kathryn at least three years ago and I'm in this fit where I'm desperately trying to return things like this that I've borrowed. Despite that I have found the book to be rather dry and repetitive, I have found that Mother Teresa had some good things to say. One particular quote has stayed with me:
There are lonely people around you in hospitals and psychiatric wards. There are so many people who are homeless! In New York, our sisters are working among the destitute who are dying. What pain it causes to see these people! They are only known by their street address now. Yet they were all someone's children. Someone loved them at one time. They loved others during their lifetime. But now they are only known by their street address.

I think that last sentence, in particular, is so sad. Now they are only known by their street address. As if that is the only distinguishing characteristic of that person. That is wrong and I want to be a part of something that tries to work to overcome that, if only in a small way.

- Jenny, 6/03/2008 11:20:00 PM

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