What do you do when you see a homeless person standing on the side of the road with a sign asking for help? I usually don’t do anything other than try not to make eye contact. It isn’t that I don’t want to help. I’m just usually not prepared to help.
Last Sunday, my wife, my three boys and I participated in a service project with River of Joy Lutheran Church called Love in a GLOVEbox. We met with about 10 other families in Spring Lake Township to share a soup dinner and build care packages that we will carry in our gloveboxes in order to be prepared the next time we see someone who needs help on an off ramp.
The packages we built contained warm socks, gloves, a hat, granola bars and McDonald’s gift certificates stuffed in a Ziploc bag. In the book Under the Overpass, the author suggests giving gift certificates and sandwiches because money can be used for non-essential items, so these packages of essential items, especially essential in a Minnesota winter, are a perfect way to be prepared.
It is too easy to think that giving help in the form of money is just going to used to buy drugs or alcohol, and this can be the case, but a Wilder Foundation study showed that there are a lot of families on the street. 35% of the homeless in Minnesota are children 17 and under who are with their families. Add to that another 10% who are children all alone, and nearly half the homeless population in Minnesota are vulnerable children. Those families need money just to feed their kids.
Homelessness is not going to be cured by pulling up to a corner and tossing a bag of goodies out the window. Each night in the Twin Cities, approximately 7000 people sleep in shelters, cars and boxes. The only way we are going to change the growing problem is to overhaul our system. We need to have jobs that pay a living wage. We need a health care system that takes care of everybody and that provides proper mental treatment. We need to take care of our veterans who put their life on the line to defend our freedom. We need to have an education system that supports growth through college and takes care of students at risk of failure.
Who is going to help do that? It certainly isn’t anybody from the party that has overseen the shrinking of the middle class, the growing number of families in poverty and the increased concentration of wealth in a small number of people. The trickle down doesn’t happen, it is time for a change.