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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Interfaith Hospitality Network

A few years back while attending the mother church of the church I now attend, I heard something about a missions opportunity called Interfaith Hospitality.  I didn't know anything about it and though it sounded like something I wanted to be involved in and something that needed someone like me, I never pursued it.
Now, at Quest, I'd made the decision to step completely out of my comfort zone and work with the missions committee and see if I could find a place for me to join in and do something.  At the first meeting I attended the subject of the Interfaith Hospitality Network came up.  There again I felt like it was something I needed to be a part of.  Our little church was going to be co-partnering with a larger church and host the families of the program.  They were going to be staying from December 27 - January 2.  Not knowing what I had to offer them or what was involved, I volunteered to be a part.
Tonight was my first night with these families. I went with lots of questions:

How did these families find themselves in this situation?
What about the children and their schooling?
What ultimately becomes of these families?
How can this network help so many families with so many needs?

There were three families.  There were five adults and seven children.  These families are of different nationalities and races, different age groups, different life stories to tell.  They are all homeless.
They move from church to church within the network, staying at each one for a week at a time.  The church sets up rooms with beds for them and they are there from suppertime until the next morning when they are transported to the main facility downtown.  If they have jobs, they are taken to their jobs.  If they are unemployed, they are taken on job interviews or in classes where they are taught skills.  If they are employed, they are able to save money by staying with the churches, hoping that eventually they will be able to find a place of their own to live.  The Network assists them with deposits and down payments on places to live as well as their utilities.  The children are transported to their schools, letting them stay in an educational environment that they're used to with teachers and students that are familiar.  If school is out on break, like now with the holidays upon us, they are left in daycare at the main facility. 
These children I was with tonight ranged from 21 months to 11 years.  They all seemed very sad and withdrawn.  Though we tried to draw them out, it was difficult.  It was almost as if they knew that any friends or acquaintances they made would be gone when they moved on to the next location.
I'll go back and be with these families again on Thursday and Saturday evenings.  The churches provide the evening meals for them and then try to socialize with them.  Again, they're not very open to conversation or socializing.
My heart goes out to these families.  I don't know about their personal situations but they have found themselves in similar situations.  That of not having a home for their families.  I'll continue to work with this group as I can.  Just maybe this is where I'm supposed to offer my time.
I just thought you'd like to know about this.  I had no idea until I pursued it and took that step forward.


Jessica said...

I'm proud of you for taking that step. It's amazing to find out how people are living right here in our community. I'm anxious to hear more about your experiences.