Hopefully, 2018 will bring a better year to the poverty and homelessness crisis in the US. especially among individuals with long-term disabling conditions whose statistics increased in 2017. However, homelessness among families with children declined 5.4 percent nationwide since 2016, while local communities report the number of persons experiencing long-term chronic homelessness and veterans experiencing homelessness has increased according to Continuum of Care in Dupage County in Illinois.
“In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “With rents rising faster than incomes, we need to bring everybody to the table to produce more affordable housing and ease the pressure that is forcing too many of our neighbors into our shelters and onto our streets. This is not a federal problem—it’s everybody’s problem.”
As I walked an older woman through the doors of First United Congregational Church of Downers Grove, she could barely speak and she pointed toward the sixth floor. I knew exactly where she was going. I helped her as many have done for others looking for solutions. I made sure she found a comfortable seat in the mass of people waiting to see a counselor. She thanked me with a tear in her eye as I looked around the room at so many young and old… children… who could not smile or greet me; their dignity ravished by their situation. Their only hope was Hopes Front Door.
Who or what is Hope’s Front Door? In the southwestern suburbs of Chicago in Dupage County, Hope’s Front Door often acts as a “first responder” to neighbors who are facing financial and/or medical crises. They play an integral role in ensuring the well-being of individuals, families and the overall communities they support. When clients walk through the doors, they determine their immediate needs. They help them with either food, medical, dental and/or transportation vouchers, plus a clear pathway into the network of social agencies that can assist them with the long-term restructuring of their lives, by helping move them out of living a “crisis to crisis existence”. They serve the homeless, as well as those seeking assistance in six local communities.
Childhood hunger is not just something that happens in other cities or counties. One in six children living in DuPage County experiences food insecurity. Everyday Hope’s Front Door provides food vouchers to help area families have access to fresh food. Over 72,800 live in poverty in DuPage County, once known as a fairly stable employment community, with over 27,000 living in extreme conditions.
Unfortunately, to afford the average rent, according to a survey completed by Bridge Communities,who also connect homeless families to a better future, you would have to work 110 hours per week to afford a 2 bedroom apartment which is approximately 1,176 a month. A one night survey conducted at Bridge on January 28th 2016 indicated that 642 persons in DuPage County were homeless on that night, an increase from 2014.
Through the help of their program partners and supporters, Bridge Communities provides free transitional housing to homeless DuPage County families each year. During the two years each family spends in their program, they are able to save money, learn budgeting skills, and obtain better employment, so they can live self-sufficiently once they graduate. I work with one of the families children who is doing exceedingly well and loves the new opportunities given; working hard to maintain a much more promising life.
Program supporters and partners are instrumental in helping the needs of their communities and there are many ways to give your support in volunteering or making a donation as well as becoming a partner. Area businesses have become an integral part of providing special services.
As a Chicago lifer living in the city and suburbs, I have watched the deterioration of many families due to job loss, high cost of living, low wages and no adequate health care; many who are friends as well as my family. Some who are older and been homeless for many months have just chosen to mark time in emergency shelters..hoping that illness will help them leave this life quickly. Others continue to struggle with one crisis after another; losing just a little bit more of themselves as the days go on. Though, somehow, someway, they do believe in God’s love for them. I guess we all have our priorities such as fair rights for women, gun control, ant-political protests, racism………but what about this?