June 7, 2011

"Homelessness and the Grippers" Introduction on how to get homeless without even trying)

There are more than 1.3 million people in the United States that are homeless. One in four of these people are children and many of them have not reached their tenth birthday. (I believe there are many more but many go uncounted). They live in alleyways, under bridges, in abandoned cars, condemned buildings and wherever else they might find makeshift shelter. It is reported that at least 13 homeless kids die every day on the streets of America. This is a national tragedy.

Having been a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society (www.svdpusa.org) for almost twenty years I have had the honor of working directly with many, many homeless people. I use the word honor because they too are God's children and they have privileged us by asking us for our help. They are our "masters". We are supposed to serve and it is humbling to be able to assist them.

Having said that it is important to remember that there are millions more across this great land of ours that are pre-homeless. I call them "Grippers". These are the folks who are hanging on, still having a roof over their heads, still taking care of their kids, still being productive. But suddenly, due to circumstances, they are losing their grip, slipping and sliding, holding on for dear life. Gripper families have begun their journey into the bog of homelessness and they do not even know it.

Next week I shall begin posting a series of blogs that follow the journey of the Slider family as they begin their pilgrimage from "average American family" to "Grippers". Whether they will lose their grip and become part of the 1.3 million on the streets or whether they will hang on is yet to be determined. Please note that the "Slider family" is a composite of so many families that I and my Vincentian brothers and sisters have worked with over the years. What they experience is based on fact and are things that happen to people every day across America.

Stay tuned.