What do you do on days when the weather is so bad that school is cancelled, work is called off and it’s simply too nasty to even think about going outside? Today, of course, many kids have TONS of distractions with video games, mp3 players, iPads and the like. These things weren’t around when I was young so my brothers and I used to entertain each other with trivia. We would find weird facts in magazines or catalogs or stuff we learned in school and challenge each other to guess the right answer. Some of the goofy questions we posed were:
· How many blood cells dose your body produce every second? Answer - 15,000,000
· Which “king” in a deck of cards does not have a mustache? Answer - King of Hearts
· How many pennies are minted each day? Answer - 26,000,000!
· True of false - the Mona Lisa does not have eyebrows. Answer - True
How many of those could you have answered correctly? Several years ago I was asked how many homeless people are residing in Sioux Falls. (Talk about being stumped.) I said that there were probably less than 100 living in our fair city. Imagine my surprise when I was told that there were approximately 700! How would you have answered? Does it surprise you that there are so many?
I have lived my entire life in Sioux Falls. I grew up on the north end near the Cathedral and have always been proud to live here. I have consistently envisioned Sioux Falls as a “big small town” where the needs of the people were always met by someone (family, neighborhood, church, or government). It never dawned on me that there could be so many that “slipped through the cracks”.
Here are some more interesting facts about homeless people in Sioux Falls:
· Over 55% of them have a full-time job.
· 22% are single-parent families.
· 18% are military veterans.
· 218 are children.
The one number that really hits me in the heart is the fact that the Sioux Falls School District identified 935 students who were homeless at some time during the 2013-14 school year - 935! Many spend the nights in vehicles, under bridges, or at a motel (when their parents can afford it). For the last few years the Salvation Army has provided a temporary emergency shelter during the winter months so people would have a place to sleep out of the cold and the elements. They announced early this year that they are no longer able to provide that service.
Most of us don’t have to worry about ever being homeless. We have a place to go, good relatives or friends to help us in times of trouble, and enough of an emergency fund to see us through bad times. But just imagine if you were suddenly homeless. What would you do? Where would go if all of the doors were closed to you?
Enter the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House (BDHH). This is an effort by the Sioux Falls Diocese along with many other churches and businesses to provide a dignified place for people to stay in an emergency. There will be a section for men, women and families (currently there are NO emergency shelters that provide a place to keep families together). This new facility will be able to house 120 people per night. It will also offer the homeless in Sioux Falls a way to meet with many other social service providers. The Good Shepherd Center (a daytime drop-in facility) will also be housed at the BDHH. This gives people an opportunity to use phones, computers, showers, and laundry facilities as well as place of hospitality and community.
So, what can you do? PLEASE be ever aware of the homeless in Sioux Falls. This is Homelessness Awareness Week. Keep in mind the plight of so many who work hard but don’t make quite enough money to pay a security deposit or rent. Make plans to volunteer at the BDHH. In time, there will be many daytime and overnight volunteers needed. And, assist them financially if you are able. The BDHH is not yet fully funded and needs your contributions. Please put the BDHH on your list of worthy agencies to receive your donations.
There are many percentages and numbers that can be examined concerning homelessness in Sioux Falls. But remember - these are not trivia but a fact of life for far too many in our “fair city”.
As I finished writing this piece for our church bulletin last week it was announced that a woman had frozen to death in the stairwell of a downtown parking ramp. What a tragedy. Sure, alcohol may have been a factor but this poor woman was still a child of God deserving dignity and respect. Hopefully, this is the last time we will hear of such devastating news.