In January 2012, a small group of adults whose childhoods were disastrously affected by homelessness, met to organize a new partnership for families with children who are currently or who were recently homeless. Our purpose is to foster relationships and a sense of community with these children in order to nurture the spiritual, emotional, and material means to a fulfilling life. Teaching and reminding each other that through personal relationships and the strength of our community, we can not only achieve personal success, but help to build community in a world growing poorer indeed for the lack of it.
Ending homelessness for children is not just about meals and shelter. The result of this crippling experience for children leads to the deprivation of the means to a successful and fulfilling life. This often continues into homelessness in their adult lives, a spiral of poverty across generations. Combating poverty and homelessness will not be accomplished simply by social activism, but in the building of relationships and acts of genuine human compassion — across barriers of race, social class, and religion.
One of the leading advocates for homeless youth is Kristine Cunningham who is the Executive Director of “Roots”. Roots is a shelter for minors in Seattle, one of the pioneering young adult shelters in the country. Kristine describes homelessness as a self-perpetuating problem when it comes to children:
“Children born to homeless mothers, or who experience multiple episodes of housing instability – couch surfing, staying in motels, or shuttling between households when they are young – often mirror that in their own adulthoods. Homelessness begets homelessness. People who grow up without stable homes don’t develop many of the coping strategies that let them transition into stable home lives as adults. Some lack practical life skills as well. Many don’t drive because the state restricts foster parents from teaching them. Many don’t have the conflict-resolution skills that it takes to survive in a workplace.”
Further, in the United States, and especially in more rural areas such as Maryland’s Eastern Shore, homelessness among families with children is growing into a problem of epic proportions. According to a recent study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington, D.C., children under the age of eighteen account for 39% of the homeless population; 42% of these children are under the age of five. Additionally, this same study found that especially in rural areas, the numbers of children experiencing homelessness is much higher than in cities.
There is an indispensable need for a spiritual focus on empowering these children and young people. Such things as restoring confidence in themselves and in the world as a place in which they can be successful and fulfilled, identifying and addressing neglected educational and cultural skills, and offering encouragement and a helping hand in completing high school and being able to move on to college, are just a few among the many resources which Deep Roots seeks to offer as enrichment for their lives. Deep Roots is a project, not just of teaching others how to fish, but of making the pond itself accessible for all — opening the gates of possibility and potential.