It is usually difficult for me to say no to Pastor Dan when he asks me to volunteer at the Wednesday afternoon service which also hosts The Largest Table at St. John’s Church (A UCC Congregation in Downtown Columbus). They’re doing good work and Dan’s sincere requests are easy to accommodate. What wasn’t easy last Wednesday was when, during service, I looked up and to the back of the sanctuary and saw a man walking into the service holding a young boy – maybe age 7 or 8. Of course I am aware that homelessness and hard times affect the whole family. I was just not prepared to see it so closely that day with my own eyes. As the afternoon progressed, I saw several homeless youth entering the church so that they could have a free meal for that day.
One in seven young people between 10 and 18 will run away. They often leave home due to physical and sexual abuse. Some leave home as a result of being forced out by struggling parents who are unwilling and unable to care for them due to their own mental health challenges. These young people are subjected to human and drug trafficking and 75 percent of them will drop out of school. As tough a situation this is for adults, children should not have to worry about where they will sleep and how they will eat each day. What percentage of us reading this blog post is one paycheck away from a sudden life change?
Thankfully, several states have enacted policies to address youth homelessness. While this is a start, it is not enough. I dream to see these programs expand throughout the country. I marvel and give thanks each day that I continue to find resources and ways to keep a roof over my head. In the words of Phil Collins, “It’s just another day for you and me in paradise”.
In Ohio, we need to improve our housing options for families, youth and others who are experiencing homelessness by investing more into permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and much more. Ohio recently extended foster care services for youth to the age of 21, but this alone is not enough to support these youth through the transition from childhood to adulthood. In the next state budget that will be released in March of 2019, the Hunger Network will look for opportunities and work with legislators to make these needed investments.
Written by Paisha Thomas, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow