The Face of Homelessness
Childhood Poverty Increasing in Shawnee County
Childhood poverty is at an all-time high, both nationally and in the state of Kansas. Out of the 105 counties in our state, Topeka/Shawnee County is ranked at 96, with 1 being the least severe and lowest rate of childhood poverty. Sadly, leading experts from around the country are telling us that, overall, previous attempts to address these needs within our country have failed.
Because of my involvement on the frontlines in working with adults and children who are homeless, I was recently invited to be a part of a taskforce within our state to discuss the challenges surrounding this issue. In doing so, I have learned that solutions for the future at this point are very unclear. Now, more than ever, we must seek the Lord for His wisdom and counsel to know how we can make a difference in the lives of the next generation and break the cycle of generational poverty and homelessness. Making the decision to either help or not help these children of our community will make a significant determination of what our future will look like; both locally and in throughout our country.
What is Our Role
I’ll never forget the impact that a little five-year-old girl and her family had on me many years back. I was the father of two young daughters at the time and was particularly touched by the children who would come through our doors that were the same age as my own kids. As I was passing through the building one day I encountered a single mom standing with her five daughters. Their father was incarcerated and Mom was doing her best to care for her little ones. Every time I saw them, they were clean and well-behaved; yet, they were hungry for more than just clean clothing.
As I approached the family, the little five-year-old looked up into my eyes and innocently reached out for a hug. I looked to her mother for direction as she smiled and nodded in approval. As I bent down, the little girl threw her arms around me and gave me one of the biggest hugs I had ever received. After she let go, all four of her siblings lined up to do the same. One by one, I reached down and showed them the attention and embrace they so longed for. When I was finished, Mom approached me and thanked me with a full sincerity. She explained their situation and shared that my brief encounter with her children made it the best day they had experienced in a long time.
Every child longs for and deserves to be cared for and loved. One who experiences homelessness as an infant or toddler may not remember the occurrence in full. However, the nurturing environment, or lack thereof, received during that time produces lifelong effects on a child’s life.
At the Mission, we have the opportunity to show love to children experiencing homelessness and their families; but we know there is something more tangible that the Lord is asking us to provide. As we embark on the new year before us, we covet your prayers for God’s guidance concerning how we are to further assist with the prevalent needs. We don’t want to just make a temporary difference in the lives of those who come though our doors; we want to make a lasting difference that will break the cycle of homelessness and poverty for generations to come. Thank you for standing with us, for believing in us and for your generous support.