The Face of Homelessness
Let's play a word association game. I say "homeless." Quick. What picture comes to mind?
Did you picture a man? A panhandler? A woman or a child?
Truth is, the face of homelessness is changing.
Nationally, families make up over one-third of the homeless population, and while the number of homeless individuals has decreased, the number of homeless families has increased (HUD Annual Homeless Assessment). The overwhelming majority of homeless families are made up of single moms age 30 or younger with an average of two children.
UGM has seen firsthand a rise in the number of women and children coming through our doors. The Crisis Shelter served nearly 3,500 different individuals over the past two years.
UGM Executive Director Phil Altmeyer attributes the change, in part, to family breakdown. Women neglected as children enter a cycle in which they find themselves, once again, abandoned as adults, responsible for supporting children on their own.
“I don’t think people are aware of it. We’ve got a hundred women in this place due to different reasons…25 kids from three weeks old up. 25 kids in this shelter alone. That’s sad.” - Crisis Shelter guest
The old motel where the Crisis Shelter is currently located wasn’t constructed to meet such high demand, and while it has offered hundreds of women hope since opening in 2007, a new facility will better serve more women. A new facility will also communicate UGM's central message more effectively: Everyone has value and dignity. Every person is created in the image of God.
A New Home
Clothes still in dryers, coffee grounds still in the machine, the occupants of a local senior center abruptly walked away. The commercial kitchen, formal dining room, and 34, wheel-chair accessible rooms made the building a perfect purchase for UGM, and after renovation, the much newer, larger facility will welcome women and children in crisis - providing a safe refuge, a place to pause and start over.
Not only will the Mission be better equipped to serve guests and offer a full-range of resources to help them return to society as contributing members, the current Shelter will be re-purposed to begin addressing the needs of homeless youth.
Initially, the Student Impact Center will be a residential community for like-minded young adults interested in urban outreach, particularly to youth living on the streets, residing in juvenile detention, or without clear support systems. College students will receive hands-on training in ministry to the young, poor, and homeless. And the possibility of providing teen shelter and youth recovery will be explored in the near future.
31 faces. 31 women. 31 stories.
For several years, UGM has hoped to offer a better home for women and children in crisis, and we’re incredibly excited to finally have the space to do so!
But this dream is only a reality with the support of the community.
During the month of August, UGM will be running a campaign showcasing 31 women and children who have benefitted from the help of the Crisis Shelter – from those who first found hope at the Shelter years ago, to others who are currently lodging there. They had a safe place to go, and for many of them, staying at the Shelter marked the beginning of a better life. They are the proof for the words on the sign out front: "Hope Starts Here."
To follow this month-long journey and hear these women’s stories, click here.
To give towards creating a better home for homeless women and children, click below.