I’d like to share a story that relates to the petition being circulated which attempts to prohibit building the future shelter for the homeless anywhere near downtown or near locations that children regularly visit.
Twenty-five years ago, Richmond, Virginia was addressing homelessness much as we do here. There was only minimal paid staff and relied heavily on church volunteers and temporary shelters. Each week, they bused homeless men to whichever church was providing volunteers for the week. When our church took its turn, my wife and I would volunteer for the overnight shift. However, we did one thing differently than most; we brought our children with us. They were 6 and 2 years old the last time we hosted.
It was a delight to see these men, many separated from their families, interacting with our children. During our time there, my son developed an interest in origami and learned a new card game. My daughter received a shiny penny. You can choose to believe that our experience was different than it would be today, but already our country had faced the mass deinstitutionalization of our nation’s mentally ill, had already seen the blights of drugs and violence.
Today, our kids work to promote the public good; one is a math teacher, the other a foster care worker. While we don’t know how our children would have developed without their experiences with these resilient, valuable people they met as kids, I know each of us is richer for it.
Corvallis (Jan. 4)