Going back in time 12 years ago:
There was one particular patient, Sharri. She was around 13 when she was admitted. Homeless, malnourished, and very troubled. Her mother could not cognitively handle the needs of a large family, and Sharri was one of ten kids, all scattered through the streets of Chicago. Sharri resisted any kind of structure, love, or efforts when others reached out. She had big brown eyes and a broken front tooth. She wore the armor of foul language, anger, resentment, and pain. She was on a pre-kinder reading level and refused all attempts of engagement in the classroom on the unit. She picked fights with every single person within earshot. She was one of the most challenging students I have had.
One day, we discovered that she was hoarding food in her room (so that she could feed her mom if her mom ever chanced to visit her on the unit). That was the first glimpse of the tender heart under all that armor.
My most vivid memory of her: After working with her for two weeks, for several hours a day, I finally found some books on tape that she could listen to and use around the other kids (so she wouldn’t feel “stupid and dumb”). Of all the books on tape I gathered, she chose Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans.
When discharged from the unit, she was placed in a foster home. We found out that she was back on the street hours after being discharged. I don’t know how many more “kid-like” moments she had.
In some states in the US, up to 25% of the homeless population has a job.
Children are the largest growing segment of the homeless population. As of 2012, there were more than 1.6 million children without homes.
30% of families that are homeless skip meals on a regular basis.
Five states make up the majority of Americans who are homeless, in 2012: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Georgia
It was very evident from the tour that the place was clean and that the staff really had compassion for the residents.
The following picture is in the Women’s Wing. In that section, 4 single women share a room that has two sets of bunk beds and a 1/2 bath, and then they all share a full bath on the wing. This is a picture of a vanity mirror area runs along the hallway in the Women’s Wing.
It was inspiring to hear about all the Eagle Scout projects, volunteers that share their skills and sacrifice their time, the families and church groups that donate money to pay for meals and then take the time to serve the residents during the meal, and then the tour took us to an outside section.
So, I didn’t take many pictures, and most of the pictures turned out blurry. But, I did get a blurred picture of the kennel below.
I didn’t know exactly how much of the experience the boys were absorbing. When we left, I asked a question or two, but it was clear that they were just still taking in the experience. Several days after the tour, it became more obvious which parts struck home for the boys, what areas had the most meaning for them. They paid attention.
I am grateful that The Samaritan Inn has provided a way for the members of the community to learn more about what they do and what it is like to be homeless. We didn’t take any supplies on this tour. We didn’t actively help anyone we met. But, the entire family learned, became more aware of the concerns and trials of being homeless. It is my firm belief that these “awareness” activities have a meaningful hand in helping develop empathy in our children and help us better understand how to serve others. Teach kids to serve. It is worth it.
Delivering Homeless Care Packages
A book to help discuss hunger and homelessness