Nowhere to go

I spoke with four different families this afternoon:

“My time is up at the shelter. I don’t know where we are going.”

“I don’t have any more days at the motel.”

“The shelters are full and I already used up the motel voucher program. I’m walking to all of the churches I can walk to so I can beg for somewhere to stay.”

“They just put us in a motel for 5 days but I don’t know how to get my daughter home from school in an hour. We don’t have a car.” I called the bus garage and they said they could try to work it out for Monday but can’t do it today, not in an hour. I arranged a taxi but asked the parent to accompany the child. The parent has two babies and no car seats to go in the taxi.

I would like to tie up all these stories in a nice bow. I would like to tell you how they all turned out wonderful and someone came to the rescue and we found answers to the crisis these families face. I know our emergency housing programs, shelters, motel voucher system and churches. I know all of these are dead ends right now. I know that almost any church in our area will give to an agency to help homeless families but will not give to a family that shows up at their door, unless the family attends that church. They just can’t run a whole emergency housing program. I get that.

I told the families to call me early Monday morning to let me know where they are so we can get the kids to school. I was able to get the student stranded at school transported to the motel. All of the rest of it is still unresolved. Can you feel how uncomfortable it is? Can you feel the fear I have for them? Can you hear the panic in their voices? I really want to know that things are going to be ok for them. I don’t know that. Neither do they.

Beth McCullough is the McKinney-Vento homeless liaison for Adrian Public Schools in Adrian, MI. She has created many innovative initiatives for homeless children and youth in her community, including “Roadmap to Graduation,” one of the nation’s first Host Homes programs for unaccompanied homeless youth. In 2012, she was named a White House “Champion for Change.”

For the past seven years, Beth has written an essay a week about her experiences working with students experiencing homelessness. The essays comprise her “Sanity Project:” managing the stress of a homeless liaison’s job through detailed, astute observations, and sometimes uncomfortable reflections.