There is no doubt that 2020 has been a unique year. As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, many of us will be reflecting on the things we are grateful for. There is a good chance that our list of gratitudes will be a little different this year.
I know my list will have some new items. For example, this year I am extra grateful for hugs. Or seeing a friend or loved one or even a colleague in person rather than on a video call. I am more grateful than ever for good health and when I pray for the health of those I love, it has a little more punch in the midst of a pandemic.
As you are making your list of things you are thankful for, I challenge you to add one more thing to it. And that is: The ability to sleep in your own bed.
Having a bed of your own is one of those things that is easy to take for granted.
Here is a sobering number.
In Comal County last school year, over 600 children were identified by the school district as being homeless or “home insecure.” This means that they do not have a stable, permanent home and, in most cases, they do not have a bed to call their own.
For many of us, the word "homeless" conjures up an image of a single adult sleeping under a bridge — desperate people living on the street. And while a few kids may find themselves in that scenario, the overwhelming number of children classified as homeless aren't living under bridges. Instead, their families are enduring periods of unstable housing. This looks different for every family but usually involves some version of moving from place to place, sleeping in motels, emergency shelters, cars, houses of relatives or friends, and so on.
Regardless of the details, experts agree that unstable housing often has serious consequences for kids.
"Homelessness is devastating to all aspects of child development," says Barbara Duffield, the executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that studies homelessness and education.
It is tempting to turn a blind eye and tell ourselves that homelessness is not a problem in New Braunfels.
The truth is, it is here. Especially as we realize the impact COVID has had and continues to have on our local economy. Many families in our community have lost income, jobs, and housing.
Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels works very hard with local families to address the challenges of homelessness in the following ways:
First, we have our prevention program. If we are able to connect with a family before they fall into homelessness we can often assist them and help keep them in their home. This has become especially important during COVID when our ability to shelter families has been significantly reduced.
Next, we continue to shelter families who qualify for our program. We help them meet goals so that when they move into their own affordable housing, they are able to sustain long term independence.
Finally, we support families as they learn to build savings, manage budgets, sustain employment and generally make life work. Our program is very successful helping families make amazing, transformational changes in their lives.
Our ultimate goal is for every kid in our area to have a bed that is their own. We want every child in our community to be able to say, “I am grateful to sleep in my own bed.”
As this tumultuous year comes to an end, there is a lot to be grateful for including your bed as you snuggle in each night. Consider offering a prayer and/or a donation for those who find themselves without a bed to call their own.