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Homeless not hopeless

Life Center of Eastern Delaware County
Life Center of Eastern Delaware County

Homeless not hopless

Every day people walk by at the 69th Terminal and city streets and pretend not to notice. The average person tries not to even make eye contact. What is it, which the average person doesn’t want to acknowledge? The homeless. They are people who are living in a situation that creates a sense of fear in all of us. Where would you go and what would you do if the worst thing you could imagine happened to you or someone you loved?

At the Life Center at 6310 Market St, Upper Darby, 50 men and women find shelter when there is no other place. At the Life Center, residents participate in the evening meal program and the Life Center also supplements their morning and noon meals. There are showers on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. The shelter offers counseling services in AIDS testing, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholic Anonymous. Due to the work that over 40 churches, synagogues, and temples do, over 200 meals are served every evening, from 7-8 p.m. (Last year the meal program served over 79,000 meals with 11,114 volunteer hours.) The number of needy individuals participating in the meal program increases every year. The evening meal program is open to the public and anyone who is hungry can come here to eat. The downside of the shelter is that it only can sleep 50 people on any given night.

On most nights there are more than 50 men and women who have no place to lay their head. That’s when an interfaith based group comes in. Connect by Night, an overnight church-based, mobile emergency shelter in the eastern area of the County. Different facilities host the shelter program each month. This shelter program is not always wheelchair accessible. Participants sleep on mats on the floor and most sites have stairs. Every month a different church hosts the Connect by Night project. These churches, with their groups of volunteers, create a warm and inviting atmosphere for those in need. Many of the churches will prepare meals, snacks and even a bagged lunch for the next day for the group they help.

You may wonder how did those people became homeless. There are a multitude of reasons. The number of homeless is difficult to ascertain because estimates vary depending on the methodology used. Numbers also vary substantially depending on whether a measurement is taken on a single night or is extrapolated to a given year. Although homelessness is a difficult to estimate, it appears that more people—especially families—are sleeping in shelters, living in their cars, and taking up residence in tent communities.

One out of 50—or about 1.5 million—American children are homeless each year, according to a 2009 study by the National Center on Family Homelessness. The study also shows Pennsylvania is ranked 9th in the amount of homeless children comparing to other states, and that 5% of household do not have an adequate food supply for the children. Homelessness isn’t a new phenomenon. Pennsylvania has seen a raise in homeless children in the most recent study. Approximately, 31,000 children as of 2010 are homeless.

So where does that leave those of us with a roof over our head? Instead of assuming that all homeless individuals are either drug addicts or alcoholics, there are many other reasons why a person becomes homeless. If you think family support should prevent homelessness it doesn’t. There are plenty of people who don’t have any other family members but themselves. There are also many families that simply can’t help because they themselves are in dire straits. There are many reasons why it happens but the one fact that isn’t different is that they are human beings like you and me who deserve to be treated as such.

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