Where do you go? To whom do you turn?

Yesterday, July 4th, I put out a large piece of butcher paper on a table in the dining room, and guests were invited to contribute drawings or comments, or to just sign their names. During this time, three young children came to the table to add to the design of the banner. These children were lovely; friendly, polite and very well-behaved. After lunch, we played Bingo in the dining room until closing time. The same three children were there. Two of them helped me to distribute playing pieces, and then sat down to play. Afterwards, their mother–who was with them the whole time–thanked me for allowing them to help. I commented on how well-behaved and polite her children were and then, because I didn’t recognize her, asked if she had been at The Bridge before. “No,” she replied. “This is new to us.” The this to which she was referring was the state of homelessness; a young mom and three young children (who looked to be about ages 9, 6 and 3) homeless… in 100+-degree weather… on a holiday. It broke my heart.
It’s not that it isn’t heartbreaking that anyone is homeless, because it is. It’s just that being newly homeless means that you don’t know where to go or who to ask for help. The woman appeared calm, but I can only imagine that she must have been hiding great anxiety. What would I, would any of us, do if we found ourselves suddenly and unexpectedly homeless with our children? I come here every day–and I never get used to this tragedy.
I spoke to our social worker (who had been working with a couple of youth who had gotten stranded in St. Louis) about the situation. Unfortunately, she told me that all the shelters in St. Louis are full. ALL THE SHELTERS ARE FULL. That’s more information that it’s hard for me to process–and accept. How can there be no place for people to go when they’re in need? What can you do when the emergency locations can’t help you in your time of emergency? What is going to happen to this mother and her children?
I’m asking a lot of questions; questions to which I don’t have answers. I’m not a politician, so I can’t pass legislation on behalf of those who need help. I don’t have a lot of money, so I can’t establish a Ronald McDonald-like home for people who are in crisis. I’m not even a social worker, so I don’t have a working knowledge of what to do in cases like this. But I was blessed with loving parents who always looked after my siblings and me, and who were able to provide us with a safe, happy home. There are many children in my life, and they are so precious to me. The economy is still rather fragile, and their parents’ jobs are no more guaranteed than anyone’s; but thanks to their extended families, I don’t imagine that any of them will find themselves without a place to live. It just isn’t right for people to be homeless. Intellectually, I knew this before yesterday, of course. But there was just something about that mother’s words yesterday that struck me–and have stayed with me. By the time she returns to The Bridge, I hope a spot in a family shelter will have opened up so that this family will have a safe place to stay while their situation–whatever it is–gets sorted out and they can get into a home of their own. In the meantime, I shall pray for them. I hope you’ll join me in this prayer for a young mother and her three children–and for everyone everywhere who is currently living life without a place to call home.