Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In the Shelter of Each Other the People Live…

As a nomad for the past 10 years, I’ve been more than aware of how my HEAR US mission —giving voice and visibility to homeless families and youth—is dependent on so many others. The Irish proverb, “In the shelter of each other the people live” encapsulates my reliance on so many people for my work to serve homeless families/youth.

Sunday, at the Church of the Bretheran in Topeka, I spoke about how we are all responsible for the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters. In light of mean-spirited policies and practices aimed at making lives of poor people even more miserable, we now, more than ever, need to care for those struggling against the tsunami of poverty and homelessness.

I don’t mean to imply caring for poor and homeless persons should solely be on people of faith. Nope! It’s a 3-legged stool. Government, local communities, and religious organizations combined are needed to reconstruct the shredded safety net essential for record numbers of families and youth without homes.

It’s humbling to realize how much people have done for HEAR US/me over the years. I started out 10 years ago—driving out of Naperville, IL late afternoon behind the wheel of my new (huge, albeit 27’ long) motorhome— as the roads clogged with commuters returning home. Tillie the Turtle, as I dubbed my rig, served as my dwelling, vehicle and office until last September when I downsized to Tillie2, a more svelte and fuel-efficient vehicle (both privately donated, not HEAR US funds).
Since Nov. 2005, I’ve parked in driveways of friends, faith communities, shelters, convents; in parking lots of the noisy, ubiquitous Walmarts and truck stops; and campgrounds of all sorts. I’ve mooched electricity that powered my revered space heater. I’ve filled my water tank for washing body and dishes. I’ve glommed onto wifi connections of friends and businesses. I’ve begged for donations and solicited paying speaking engagements. I’ve been welcomed into schools and shelters across the land, connected with the experts for their stories of homelessness and survival. I’ve been taught the basics of how to film and edit documentaries. I’ve been bolstered in ways too many to mention from my HEAR US board members. I’ve been showered with generous support from countless friends and strangers. But most of all…
…I’ve been gifted by the trust and friendship of children, youth and parents experiencing homelessness. 
My talk today centered around the heroes and sheroes of my travels. The veteran-dad who persisted at a grueling work schedule to eventually be able to move out of the dilapidated tiny camper he and his 3 teen boys and dog called “home” for too long; the military mom who, with her 4 children escaped domestic violence, doubling up with friends/acquaintances until they landed on their feet; and the mom and her 7-year-old daughter who have bounced around from bad situations to worse, not giving up hope.

Being able to film and share painful stories of homelessness among families and youth has been my mission for the past 10 years. No one else does it. I know our nation suffers from a dreadful lack of knowledge of the extent of family/youth homelessness. I’m honored to be the instrument.

I don’t often sit and reflect, much less write, on how grateful I am. If you’re one of the countless individuals who has helped HEAR US in any way, I can’t thank you enough. 
And if you’re someone who appreciates the unique, essential work of HEAR US, and you have the financial means to do so, I’m asking for your help. We’ve got a 10 Years, 10 Friends campaign going. We want as many people as possible to commit to a small ($10+) monthly, tax-deductible donation, and if possible, getting 10 friends to do the same. This gives HEAR US a solid monthly income stream so I can continue my efforts, needed more now than ever.
As I strive to maintain my compassionate perspective and the hutzpah needed to pursue our Quixotic mission to get our nation to change the way we look at homelessness, I am painfully aware of how I need you to shelter me. 

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