- “The Burbank Temporary Aid Center has experienced a 66% increase in requests for assistance in the last 18 months, Executive Director Barbara Howell said. About half of those seeking help are middle-class people experiencing homelessness for the first time.”
- “Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission, said he’s also seeing professionals and other middle-class people coming into the mission who are experiencing homelessness for the first time, including former mission donors.”
- “It’s America’s new shantytown,” Roberts said. “It’s happening everywhere—Seattle, San Diego and Denver. I think it’s a reflection of the economic times. The social safety net in our society is failing.”
For those wondering about my homeless experience last week, I survived. Barely. It was pretty miserable, but mostly because I got sick and spent the whole night trying not to throw up on my tentmates. Being sick wasn’t part of the plan, but I don’t think the real homeless have that choice.
It was nonetheless a good experience if only because it forced me to understand the reality of being homeless. It’s hard to understand how completely out of options a person is when they have no where for themselves and their kids to sleep. And yeah, that’s the other kicker. More and more families are homeless.
Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Columbus, Reno, Fresno, Chattanooga. They’re all home to homeless encampments, tent cities springing up of people who have lost their homes. It’s a startling story, reminiscent of the Hoovervilles of the 1930s (though clearly we’re not to that extreme yet). What’s perhaps most frightening about this story is that it’s dated Sept. 18. These tent cities don’t appear to be a result of the current economic meltdown, but have been the result of foreclosures and rising prices we’ve seen all year.
These kinds of stories further my resolve to spend a night outside experiencing homelessness (and the reality is setting in how freaking cold it’s going to be sleeping out in October in Minnesota). As the economy continues to worsen, more and more people will turn to increasingly crowded homeless shelters. They need help. When times get tough there’s an understandable temptation to turn inward and take care of your own. But that’s when I think it’s all the more important to help each other. It’s easy to be generous when your stock options are up and your 401K is growing.
On Oct. 16, 2008 I’m participating in Cardboard Box City and will be sleeping outside to experience homelessness firsthand. I’ll be sleeping out in a tent, tarp or cardboard box at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds with a group from my church and others from around the Twin Cities. The event will be raising money and awareness for two local organizations that provide emergency shelter and affordable housing, Families Moving Forward and Project Home.
About 80% of homeless people are in need of short term, immediate help. They find themselves on the street for a number of reasons, but the vast majority get help and get back on their feet in a short time. Project Home offers that help as an overflow shelter hosted at local churches that provides added capacity when the county service center is full. My church hosts Project Home every June (our recent building project included a shower facility specifically for Project Home).
Everyone attending Cardboard Box City is trying to raise money for Families Moving Forward and Project Home to help homeless families. I’m shooting to raise $100 in “rent”. I hope you’ll consider donating to support my effort.
Earlier this week I had a CFCC meeting in Chicago, so I left the wife and child carless and drove 400 miles to Chicago (gas may be expensive, but it was still cheaper than planes or trains). I used to drive that stretch of Interstate between St. Paul and Detroit all the time in college (at least six times per year?), so it was just like old times. I also realized that I haven’t taken a long road trip by myself in a long time. I think 2005 was the most recent, and before that it was probably 2001. I guess marriage does that to you.
I also realized the last time I spent any considerable amount of time in Chicago was 1999 when I lived there for a summer. Welcome to nostalgia land.
Another day on the streets of Chicago, proof that life isn’t always easy. Today was a pretty rough day. My body ached, my bruised palm hurt, and my fingers bled. And you thought a yo-yo was a toy. Yesterday I was hustled by some kids, today I was robbed. Well, not really. They tried to. Four eight year old kids decided it would be fun to spend their Saturday running up and down Michigan Avenue harassing people. First they tried to use my spare yo-yo’s, against my will of course. Then they took off with the yo-yo’s. I trusted they’d come back, and they did. Next they tried to take off with my money. They grudgingly came back. For the next hour and a half they kept coming back and bugging me. Sometimes you just want to strangle kids.