Dear Home Van friends,
I’m sorry to be so long in thanking you for the amazing outpouring of food and money for food when I requested help. ( My pilot light has been a little low since we ended the driveouts, but I’m on the mend.) We have been able to feed everyone who has come to us. The uptick in business at Bread of the Mighty Food Bank seems to be a permanent situation. More and more people are in need of food assistance over the five-county area Bread of the Mighty serves, so your help makes all the difference.
The major surprise for me, when it comes to our food pantry, is that I am now meeting homeless children, very young homeless children. We hear about them every year in the Point-in-Time Survey. Roughly 600 children in Alachua County are homeless. But I rarely met these children when we were driving out. One young single mother, B, became homeless with a four-year-old, after a horrific and totally unexpected family tragedy. She came to Gainesville because she believed there was a person living here who would help her get back on her feet. That turned out to be untrue and she found herself on the streets, for the first time in her life. B is one of the most centered and courageous young women I’ve ever known. She went to agencies and missions all over Gainesville, barking up every tree she could find. When I met her she had lined up subsidized housing, subsidized daycare, and 15 job interviews. I met her on a Friday afternoon. Her housing was going to become available on Monday, but in the meantime she was facing a rainy, stormy weekend with nowhere to go. She went to a shelter and whoever she spoke with – staff member? volunteer? I have no idea. In any case, this person told her that there was no bed available for her and that if she ever came back with her child, they would be obligated to call DCF and have her child taken. Fortunately, some of our homeless friends overheard this conversation and gave her my name and address. We put her up in a motel for the weekend with a bag of kid-friendly groceries. She came back last week to tell me that she now has a job and things are going well.
Another young family, parents and a very young toddler, were actually living in a tent when they came here for food. Nevertheless, their child was clean, well-dressed, healthy-looking and had a smile on his face. With some help from us, they are moving into what I would term “marginal housing.” It is not ideal, but a step up from a tent and they and their baby will be safe and dry. One of the parents is working fulltime at a fast food restaurant and they are saving every penny they can to get for real housing soon. The third young family had a very small baby with them. Fortunately, this baby stays with relatives at night and is with them during the day. They want a tent for themselves, to camp near where their baby is living, and have a place to keep their belongings and prepare for job interviews. It is hard to get a job when you are living in a tent, and basically impossible when you are roaming the streets. All these young families impressed me with their courage. Thank God for cell phones. I had each of them put our number into their cells. I told them to call me when they need to, and assured them they can get food from us whenever they need it, not just on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
The other major group who comes here is very old men. Most of them are the old hermits and mavericks who have always come here for services. I talk to them about Dignity Village but they’re just not interested. Some of them have been out in the woods since Vietnam and expect to live out their lives in the woods by themselves. They are a remarkably cheerful lot and always say God Bless You!
I am hearing about Iraq veterans. I had a long conversation yesterday with a young man who is not a veteran himself but says that most of his friends in the homeless community are. He tells me that they are in very bad shape, psychologically, and he is doing what he can to help them. I haven’t seen the VA social workers lately, but so far as I know they are still out there rounding people up for the HUD VASH program. But there are always more.
Peace and love to everyone,
The Home Van needs tents, tarps, bottled water, Vienna sausages, food for people who don’t have kitchens
, candles and batteries. Call 352-372-4825 to arrange for drop off. Financial donations to the Home Van should be in the form of checks made out to Citizens for Social Justice, Inc., earmarked for the Home Van, and mailed to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601, or can be made online at http://homevan.blogspot.com/
THE HOMEVAN IS A PROJECT OF CITIZENS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, INC. (FDACSREGISTRATION #CH35643). A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.