One of the members of my church submitted these reflections following a week in which she, and many others from the church, volunteered with the interfaith "Winter Nights" program to provide shelter for homeless families in the East Bay. The relevance and significance of her reflections reach far beyond any one church or any one community.
Katy is public school administrator here in the East Bay. She is on the front line of some our society's most trying, and most troubling, challenges. By volunteering with the "Winter Nights" program, she finds herself on yet another front line.
I hope that you will read, and share, these reflections written after spending some Winter Nights among some of the East Bay's homeless. Katy writes:
It’s the people we house in the cold winter nights that keep drawing me year after year:
• The young couple with a three week baby; he arrived each night in his Wendy’s uniform where he serves burgers and fries. They had given up rent money to pay for the baby’s arrival and found themselves needing shelter.
• The single Mom with a scrappy 11-year-old skateboarding son whose arm was in a well-autographed cast. He broke it skating and Mom had given up rent money to pay an orthopedic doctor to set the cast. They found themselves needing shelter.
• The well-dressed, soft spoken, middle-aged business woman who had sold her business and then her home to pay for her battle against cancer for her medical coverage was “limited.” She found herself needing shelter.
• The single Mom from Texas coming home after she was laid off by Deere tractor corporation in the economic crunch – she had been in charge of the Canadian market. She lost her house in Dallas in the housing crash but when she arrived home, her elderly parents already had family members who had moved back home. There was no room and she and her 13 year old son found themselves needing shelter.
• The single Mom with terminal cancer without a job or medical coverage. The kids who don’t know yet, are perky, bright and continue to attend their schools. The teachers there are pitching in to pay for gas cards so that Mom can drive the kids back and forth by 7:30 a.m. every morning and 6:30 every night.
It’s the people and their stories that are so dear and that break the stereotypes year after year - but this year there is a new feeling: it’s a slow anger that is building up inside of me. It shouldn’t be this way – there should be a system of protection for these good people who live so close to another kind of “fiscal cliff.” What kind of a nation are we, anyway?