by Ellen Koretz Whitton
My usual role with the Mary’s Place families while they are at Temple Beth Am (or Ravenna United Methodist Church, where TBA volunteers also help out) has been as an overnight host, so I often don’t really get the chance to know the families. But this time, along with my husband and 8-year-old son, I hosted one evening. My son was nervous. He asked, “what if the homeless people aren’t nice?”, but once he got there he fit right in and had a great time playing with the other kids.
One conversation I overheard really struck me. One of the children had brought a Scholastic book order leaflet back from school. The child’s mother sighed and said, “I don’t get my TANF until the middle of the month.” Here is a mother who has nothing, not even a roof over her head, yet she is trying to find a way to get books for her child.
As I write this story, I reach over to pet Grace, our family’s tuxedo cat. I know that we can have a pet because we have a home. (Grace is a shelter cat, who was homeless herself!) The night I served as evening host, another volunteer let the children pet his dog, and they were delighted. Having a home means that a child (or a parent) who loves animals can have the simple joy of having a pet.
No matter how much you study the problem of homelessness, I don’t think you can truly understand what homelessness means until you have spent time with these brave and resourceful people. It truly has been a privilege to help.