Path to Homelessness


  • Broken families is the #1 reason that we see for homelessness.  (Phil Altmeyer, UGM Exec. Director, "Hope for the Homeless," reporter Stephanie Vigil, KHQ-6, November 19, 2016)

  • When asked what is driving teenagers to Crosswalk, a shelter for homeless teens.  Crosswalk volunteer coordinator said, without hesitation, "Trauma in the home."   (Crosswalk, Spokane, WA)

  • At this time of year (spring), one can’t help but think about family, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day and graduations.  Hopefully, our memories of family are good ones.  If we don’t have positive family memories, perhaps (hopefully), we made changes in the way we raised our own children.
If you are reading this, I would guess that you either came from, or raised, a “happy”  family.  This is the time of year to reflect on that, to thank and show appreciation for those who loved us and those we’ve loved.  It’s also a good time to reach out to those who’ve not been so blessed.

We sometimes take the love of family for granted.  How would your life be different if you didn’t come from a loving family?
  • What if you were the result of generations of dysfunction, drama and broken relationships?
  • What if you lacked a decent education, or medical care?
  • What if you were raised in extreme poverty, or suffered from physical or emotional abuse?
  • What if you were raised by parents who struggled with addictions?
  • What if you were raised in foster care, moving from home to home, never feeling loved, until you “aged out” of the system and found yourself on the street?
  • What if your memories of childhood included several of the above scenarios?
  • What if you came from a family who loved and cared for you, but for reasons you don’t understand and didn’t choose, you found yourself an addict, or mentally ill?
Unfortunately, these experiences are common among homeless folks.  They didn’t choose the life they were born into; and children are helpless to remove themselves from such circumstances on their own.  As those children become adults, is it any surprise that they end up with problems?  How can we go from feeling compassion toward helpless children, who are clearly victims, to the expectation that as adults, they should suddenly have the skills and ability to make good choices and care for themselves?  That’s why House of Charity is so important. 

We can never make up for the awful circumstances from which our folks come.  But, we can make a difference.  Once the basic needs for food, safety and shelter are taken care of, we can begin to work toward healing.  In this process, House of Charity often fills the role of “family” for our folks.  This is a safe place, where they are treated with kindness and respect.  We feed them, shelter them and protect them.   As they begin to trust us, we can work with them to find housing, mental health care and medical assistance.  We laugh with them, we cry with them. We’re joyous when they succeed, we’re sad when they struggle.  We can’t change their past, but we can give them hope for the future.

Isn’t that what family is all about?  Thank you for supporting our House of Charity “family”. (Tamara Olsen, Food Service Coordinator, House of Charity, a program of Catholic Charities)
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