Approximately 100 million people worldwide are homeless.
In the United States alone, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in 2014 that 578,000 people live homeless on any given night in the U.S.
An estimated 1.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, a national figure that has doubled since the 1980s.
Homelessness, simply put, is an issue of lacking a livable, permanent shelter. However, the deeper existing issue is the lack of personal space that provides the protection, stability, and rest one needs in order to maintain a healthy state of mind. Still deeper is the issue of lacking a living environment that meets one’s physical and psychological needs.
A home is much more than a “roof over one’s head.” While that is essential, home is about the resources and personal space necessary for one’s growth as a healthy, stable individual. Without such a home, life can become meaningless for an individual.
The homeless are often driven to dire states of mental and emotional instability, because resources are not readily available and genuine relationships with loved ones are nonexistent.
The devastation homelessness brings about in an individual is clearly evident - so why aren’t we doing more about it?
This past week, I went with a group to a home that helped families who were in transition.
Families “in transition” are those who became homeless very recently due to unfortunate events like a job retrenchment, divorce, domestic abuse, or death. Therefore, these families didn’t have anywhere to go but to this home which would provide them with a place to live until they would be able to get back up on their feet.
In talking to the families, they told me repeatedly that they were so incredibly grateful for a home like this to live in, as well as for outside groups to come in and make dinner for them. They were so thankful. The kids especially -- the look on their faces when our group brought out a simple dessert for them to eat was priceless.
We had a wonderful time hearing their stories, and sharing our own. When they hugged us goodbye, they asked when we could come again. They told us that it wasn’t often they had groups coming in to take the time to make dinner and eat with them.
Something inside me broke when I heard that. Really? Preparing a simple meal doesn't take too much time, and yet there aren't too many people willing to do that.
People who have never been homeless don’t realize that homelessness is probably the hardest thing someone can ever go through. And they don’t realize how easy it is to become homeless.
I was reminded through this experience that my family, because of one unfortunate event, could easily become homeless too, and if it wasn’t for people who recognized that homelessness is a major social issue, these families wouldn’t have anywhere to go or anyone to turn to. They would just be a number, and without the care of others, they would be left ignored, unnoticed, and unloved.
Here’s some food for thought: It doesn’t take much to extend your compassion to a family in need. Take the time to hear their stories. You never know the impact it could have on your own life.