Horizons For Homeless Children

I am ashamed to admit that, until last year, I didn’t realize that there were homeless families on the North Shore, not that I really gave it much thought (shameful, as well). Unexpectedly, some time last year, I happened to notice a listing in the newspaper for volunteers. As I read on, I was taken aback to learn that the volunteers were needed specifically to play with homeless children in Peabody. Peabody, Massachusetts? I know Peabody is bigger than Ipswich and has the challenges that go along with that, some rough neighborhoods and teens that grow up a bit faster than most (I knew a girl from Peabody when I was a kid and she was smoking cigs at age 13 ~ I was aghast!)…  Still, I was really struck by this image of homeless children just down Route 1, a short drive from home, in the town where my parents live in a lovely retirement community.

Let’s face it, in our relatively sheltered community (hey, I’m not knocking it, just stating the reality), the only times I’ve seen homeless people have been in Boston and NYC (and only a handful at that), and more so only last summer, in Baltimore, where there were many homeless people, all men as I recall, who were referred to in the hotel pamphlet as “pan-handlers” (this in a section devoted to educating the tourists with “how to” information regarding appropriate behavior should one be approached by one of these people). To be blunt, these homeless men frightened me and my “mother bear” instinct was in overdrive as I hurried the kids past them. And, that’s the image “homeless” conjures up for me ~ mostly men, down and out, likely emotionally unstable or addicted to drugs or booze. I’ve not thought of them as lazy or stereotypical “bad guys.” I’m sympathetic. But, then I get on with my busy life. To stop and consider that there are homeless families? That must be really rare. Or is it?

The following stats are quoted on the Horizons for Homeless Children website (the site of the organization that I had read about in the newspaper, the group that was looking for volunteers to play with the homeless children). Here are some sobering stats from their site:

JULY 2007: New data suggest that there are at least 96,000 homeless children in MassachusettsRead more.

Nationally approximately 500,000 children aged 0-5 years
old experience homelessness in the course of a year.
(Source: Urban Institute, 2000).

Tonight over 1,200 families will be staying in publicly funded family shelters in Massachusetts. Within these families, there are 1,200 children under the age of five.
(Source: Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance).

Compared with low-income housed children, homeless children experience more health problems, developmental delays, increased anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and lower educational achievement.
(Source: National Center on Family Homelessness, 1999).

Here’s the link to these statistics: http://www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org/Statistics.asp

Horizon For Homeless Children works with 23 family homeless shelters in the North Shore/Merrimack Valley alone. If you, like me, start to feel understandably upset to learn these facts, remember that our upset regarding these statistics is nothing compared to what it must be like living as one of those statistics, a nameless statistic that most people aren’t even aware of, one of those kids. For those of us who are parents, the homeless parents of these homeless kids come to mind, parents who likely face feelings of inadequacy that we can’t even imagine and an uphill battle that must seem insurmountable in this tough economy where it’s easy to falter and much harder to undo mistakes, financial or otherwise.

Okay, so what’s my point? What happened to my typically cheerful self? I’m still here and I want to work to make a difference. Here’s the good news. The North Shore has some great organizations to help those in need, including those who are homeless, people facing problems of addiction and those living in or running from abusive relationships. So, while it pales in comparison to the work being done by the volunteers and social sector workers on the “front lines” of helping these fellow North Shore community members, I really want to be part of the solution.  

If you haven’t noticed it yet, I’m into quotes these days and one of my favorites is, “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” To me, this quote isn’t about a person’s level of involvement in the past, or to generate feelings of regret (a wasted emotion). It’s a call to action during these changing times. There are many people already working toward a solution. Good people trying to make a lasting difference. Everyone has a different issues in their lives, different ability to help. I’m suggesting that we should each at least be aware of the choices we make to help in some way.  

Together, we can do more. Not everyone has the time or can make the time to go play with those homeless kids, though I encourage those interested to check out the site’s volunteer opportunities http://www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org/How_To_Help_PAL_opportunities.asp ). In our own way and to varying degrees, we can do our best to try to help, to be a part of the solution in whatever way we are able.

 

Once I get the business up and running, we’ll take a closer look at helping Horizons for Homeless Children increase awareness of the problem and supporting their efforts toward a solution. For now, I’d like to share some information on donating goods and services that is from Horizons for Homeless Children’s website. I encourage you to visit the website and see if you have anything you could donate that they currently need.

Here’s an excerpt from their donation page:

Donating Goods and Services to
Horizons for Homeless Children

Horizons for Homeless Children relies on the support of the many people who give goods and services.  

  • If you are interested in donating goods, please review our wish list below.  If you have questions regarding donations, please contact 617-445-1480.
  • If you are interested in donating services such as printing, catering, design, public relations or other services, please contact 617-445-1480.

Horizons for Homeless Children Wish List … High Priority Items

  • Conference room chairs
  • 2 bookcases, no larger than 3′ wide, 4′ tall and 1′ deep
  • 1 bookcase, no larger than 3′ wide, 6′ tall and 1′ deep
  • 1 5×3′ bulletin board
  • 2 office chairs
  • Electric oven
  • Electric washing machine

 For the details on how to give and to read the list of items needed on an ongoing basis, check out the website. Here’s the link:

http://www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org/How_To_Help_Donate_Goods_Services.asp

Rather than feeling guilty or ashamed about not helping in the past, I’m looking forward with hope and determination to making a difference in a number of positive ways in the lives of our fellow community members. For all the activities, opportunities and products I’m planning for in my new business, I think there is nothing more important than my plans to incorporate into our regular calendar donation drives that will help those in need by helping existing local organizations like Horizons for Homeless Children and through the increased awareness our activities will help to create. I look forward to sharing these opportunities with those who share my desire to help. By helping to make life better for others, we will make our own lives better, richer, more meaningful.

Off to learn about cash flow – yuck! N.

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4 responses to “Horizons For Homeless Children

  1. Amanda Browne, the Northeast Director of Horizons for Homeless Children sent me an email which she was happy to have me share with all of my blog readers. Here it is:

    “Nancy:

    Thank you for including our information on your post. I looked it over and everything seems fine. … If you want to include me as a contact, please do so. My info is below my signature on this e-mail. Also, if you do hear from people that are interested, I would be more than happy to meet up with all of you and discuss the program further and provide more information. “Please let me know what I can do to assist your efforts.

    Thanks so much!

    Amanda Browne
    Playspace Programs Northeast Director
    Horizons for Homeless Children
    60 Island St.
    Lawrence, MA 01840

    abrowne AT horizonsforhomelesschildren DOT org”

    Also, here’s the link to their PSA online:

    I’ll be sure to check in with Amanda as we move forward to be sure we include Horizons for Homeless Children in some of our donation drives. ~ Nancy

  2. Jody, Let us know if the families need anything else we can help with during this tough time they are going through. Thanks for the INFO! Nancy

  3. Thanks, Deb (and Nancy!)! Yes…gas cards can be sent to: Rep. Brad Hill, P.O. Box 556, Ipswich, MA 01938 Even though school is nearing it’s end, I am sure these families can use these gas cards into the summer for transportation to camps, work, etc. Thank you!

  4. Just a note in case people missed it….Brad Hill has asked for donated gas cards for Ipswich homeless families. You can send to his office.

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