I wonder… Stats and Thoughts on Poverty, Homelessness & Family Ministry

I just finished reading the Report Card on Child Homelessness provided by the National Center on Family Homelessness. While my thoughts are still fresh, I invite you to struggle through some data and questions with me.

2.5 million children in America – one in every 30 children – go to sleep without a home of their own each year. When you review the data, you will see that Indiana tends to be in the middle of all categories.  I hope this ranking won’t cause you to believe child homelessness is not an Indiana issue. It impacts more families than any of us realize.

The Indiana report indicates that there are currently 285,000 Indiana children living in poverty. Of the 285,000 children living in poverty in Indiana, one out of every twenty (5%) are homeless. There are 13,013 children who go to bed every night in Indiana cities and towns without a home to call their own. 

Let those numbers settle in for a minute, then please wonder these things with me:

I wonder… How will this information impact the mission and vision of our local churches?

I wonder… Who remembers homeless children, youth and families in the midst of the many conversations our congregations have about “reaching new families?”

I wonder… How will we bring God’s message of hope to children, youth and families who don’t have a place to call home?

I wonder… Are our congregations equipped to reach out to families experiencing homelessness and poverty, in ways that will truly help and not just bandaid the situation?

I wonder… Are our people ready to become friends and advocates of low income and homeless families? Are our hearts breaking, or are they hard and judging?

I wonder… What if all Indiana congregations took a bold stance on community revitalization by working in partnership with organizations that have a better understanding of the needs and challenges that exist for many families today?

I wonder… What if every member made it their purpose as a Christ follower to invest in forming a meaningful relationship with those commonly seen as outcasts or “not like us?”

I wonder… Would these reports significantly change for the better if we did?

I think they would. I believe they can. I know they will…

I hope you read the statistics provided in the Indiana report, and I hope they will make your heart feel like mine does right now… broken, but so, so hopeful… because I believe God uses the broken and willing hearts of His people to shine His light in the darkest places of our communities, and I know that when United Methodists unite about something, God makes amazing things happen!

-Helene Foust

Helene Foust is the Associate Director of Student Ministries for the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. You can reach her at helene.foust@inumc.org or on Facebook or Twitter

 


4 Comments

  1. Karen Korn

    Thank you so much for the frank questions. I need the periodic reminder. I am blessed beyond measure but daily at work in a Pike Township elementary school I come face to face with how unfair life is for our students sometimes. Honestly I probably know more about the situation there than I do in my own community

  2. I think if we’re brutally honest with ourself the image in our head of “new families” often looks a lot like our own, both in terms of race and socioeconomic status. It’s a natural human default. It’s also easier because we understand our own lifestyle. Most of us don’t have first hand experience of what it’s like to be homeless so it takes more prayer and work to connect in meaningful ways with people that live different lives.

    Thanks for the post and challenge.

  3. Evan Sherar

    If every one of our 1,120 congregations took in the family unit of at least one child….

  4. Liz Mason

    I know the blessing to have a stable home now, but I was one of the statistics for homeless families. Through kindness of Christians, much prayers and agencies I found my own little hole in the world to raise my family. I thank God everyday for the blessings. I wish I could do more but I know it is a process of housing families and getting them to the next step. I still work with families in need and praying with them as we seek God miracles in our walk.

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