By Dawn McConaughy
Sometimes it is easy in the Advent season to distance ourselves from any involvement in the original story of Christmas. When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem – about to bear a newborn – they had no roof over their heads and were forced into an animal shelter. Would we have done anything to help them? The reality is that there are thousands of families in King County who face this situation every night. Through our Gifts of the Heart offering this year, we are being given a chance to get involved and provide shelter for those for whom there would otherwise be no room in the inn.
The Mission Committee is proud to announce that this Advent season we have chosen to join Madrona Grace Presbyterian Church in their effort to provide shelter for homeless families. Since 2010, families have been the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in Washington State, particularly women and children.
v 71% of homeless women have slept in a car.
v 26% of homeless women have had to find food out of a trashcan.
v 57% have taken a bath in a public sink.
v 92% of homeless women have experienced some sort of severe physical or sexual abuse in their life.
v Seattle Public Schools reported that in 2011 over 1,300 of their students were homeless.
Why the increase? While each person’s story is unique, experiencing life crisis without family or financial support can have devastating consequences. A job loss, domestic violence, divorce, illness and lack of health insurance, substance abuse and mental illness all contribute to the homeless rate.
Seeing the need, Madrona Grace made the decision to renovate their basement into an evening shelter called Julia’s Place, adding 14 much needed beds for Seattle’s homeless families. These are families, many with very young children, who would otherwise be sleeping on buses, under bridges, in cars or separated from each other in different shelters; women and young children going to one shelter, men to another and adolescent boys to a teen shelter. That is if they can find a shelter with room. It is not uncommon for a mother to call 30 to 50 shelters in one day looking for a safe place for her family to sleep that night. Now these families have a warm, safe place to eat dinner, do homework, play games and sleep while working toward permanent housing. Between April and November of this year Julia’s was able to provide 2,997 bed nights and dinners for homeless families.
Sarah and Victor came to the Julia’s Place with their four children in May after both lost their jobs and subsequently their housing. Since then, they worked diligently everyday towards obtaining housing, both catching the bus from Madrona every morning at 5:45am to get to their new jobs in Woodinville. By the end of July, they had saved up enough money to move their family into their own home.
This Advent, through the Gifts of the Heart offering, we have an opportunity to help families in need. Families who, just like Mary and Joseph, and most of us, just want a warm, safe place to lay our heads after a long day.