Monday, September 9, 2013

Day of Caring Sheds Light On Increased Homeless Family Population

Volunteers from Jim Norton
Toyota paint family rooms.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Center of Hope during my Day of Caring site visit was a little baby about the same age as my infant son. He was smiling and giggling while being held by his mother, who had come to the shelter for help. The image stuck with me throughout the weekend. Although I know that the family is now getting the help it needs, I just couldn't forget.

The Center of Hope is seeing more families like this one. According to caseworker Gale Baker, the number of families seeking help at the Center of Hope has tripled in the past seven years. On average, the Center of Hope will house about 20 families a night during the summer. Three years ago, only four to seven families would stay the night at the shelter. The Center of Hope has 11 rooms for these families, which means a room may have more than one family during those crowded nights.

“The face of the homeless isn’t what it was 20 years ago,” says Baker. “These aren’t all drug addicts or alcoholics. Some of these people lost a job or had unexpected medical problems that caused them financial trouble.”   

A pile of toys in the shelter's family
lounge where little ones can play.
Add in the cost of at least one child and it can lead to homelessness.

On Friday September 6, a group of United Way volunteers from Jim Norton Toyota were painting the walls of the family rooms at the Center of Hope as part of the Day of Caring.

“When children come to the shelter, by no fault of their own, we want a place that’s cheerful and not dull,” says Baker. “These volunteers are helping make that happen.”

Caseworkers at the Center of Hope are working hard to help families get back on their feet so they don’t have to stay at the shelter anymore. I’m thankful we provide a place for these families to go, but I’m hoping the numbers will start to decrease.


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