Today I'm all about a local organization here in Los Angeles called Beyond Shelter. Here are some very sad statistics from their website:
Third World conditions exist in Los Angeles today.
- In June, 2008, Los Angeles Unified School District reported that 12,087 children were homeless - a 50% increase in 3 years.
- L.A. County Department of Public Social Services reports a 12% increase in family homelessness between September 2007 and September 2008; and a 24% increase between June 2008 and September 2008.
- 85% of emergency shelters and transitional housing regularly turn families away due to lack of beds.
Last year we participated in their Adopt A Family holiday program. Beyond Shelter helps homeless families, many of them single moms and children, get back into a home of their own. They provide assistance with childcare, work training, and job placement. Through donations they are able to provide these families with many of the essential items they could not afford once in their homes, such as pots and pans, towels, silverware, plates, cups, sheets. The adopt a family program, allows you to buy some things the parents need, as well as christmas presents for the children who would otherwise get nothing. For our family we also bought winter coats, new shoes, socks and underwear for the children.
When we adopted the family last year we got a little family history about our family and a list of things that each of them wanted or needed. The circumstances of this young mother, and how she and her two young sons ended up on the street were beyond anything I can imagine. The fear a mother must experience finding herself on the street with her children. While shopping for them, I tried to think of what my mother would have sent to me, if I were setting up house for the first time. (besides more tea towels than a human being could use in one lifetime. What is it with moms and tea towels?) All those little things that we take for granted, and she had nothing. Ok, ok, I'll stop, but I think all the time, about how fortunate we are compared to so many families. And this year, more families than ever are finding themselves out of their homes for the first time.
I sent in my form this year for the adopt a family program, and was informed that it was so successful that they couldn't guarantee us a family this year. HOORAY! This is great news. But once Christmas is over, many families will still be in need. The program director instead directed me to their registry at Kmart. Basically what they've done is set up a registry for all the everyday items that are needed to set up a family in a new home. It allows the person shopping to spend as little as $1.79 or as much as you want. Nothing on the registry is over $50. Type "Beyond" into the first name, and "Shelter" into the last name, and Bob's your uncle. I think this is pretty frickin awesome. Even if you've only got a few bucks to spare, you can help out someone in need.
Beyond Shelter provides such an important service to families who have no one else to turn to. As someone who loves her home, who gets so much strength from having a safe place to be with my family, I can't imagine the agony of wondering every night where my children will sleep, or where their next meal will come from.
If you're one of those people that likes to think global, act local, blah, blah, blah, you can looks up a local food bank in your area on the Feeding America site. While they don't provide the same kind of home placement services, their help is needed in so many communities. Many food banks this year are running low, or completely out of food altogether. Many middle class families are relying on the groceries they get from the local food bank to get them through some very scary times.
Ok, that's my spiel for this week. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Now let's go out and do something good to help someone else in need. And again, if there are other charities or organizations that you'd like me to talk about, let me know!