What does home mean to you? Is it simply the roof over your head? Your life’s savings or investment? Where you raised your children and where your family gathers for the holidays?
Having a place to call home is the pillar of the American Dream and the center of our childhood memories. As the weather turns cold and plans center around festive gatherings, our homes become more precious than ever. And we think of those who are have no place to call home during our iciest and most challenging time of year.
Despite growing up in a fairly affluent county in Northern California, my family is no stranger to homelessness. When there’s expensive rent, five mouths to feed, credit card bills, and trying to keep up with the Jones’ (or Kardashian’s for a younger reader) - everything can get turned upside down quickly when the primary breadwinner loses his job. For a short time while I was in high school, my sisters and I stayed with friends so our parents could get back on their feet when we lost our home.
With “president” and “vice-president” of software companies to his professional credit, time and time again my father was denied positions for being over-qualified. He stayed in a shelter for months so that the money he earned working a retail job could contribute to a small apartment for my sisters, mother and me. Every weekend, we would open the door to groceries left on our stoop, a symbol of the indignity he felt as well as his desperate attempt to care for us in one of the only ways he could.
We were fortunate enough to have family and friends to lean on, beds to sleep in, food in our bellies, and to remain in school. But my story isn’t uncommon nor is it the worst case scenario. With the state of the economy, fewer job openings and more layoffs, families across the country are at risk of losing everything.
Between five and six hundred thousand people are considered homeless at any given time—without a “permanent, safe, affordable place to live.” Families constitute about one third of all homeless and are the fastest-growing group. The homeless elderly are also an important group as America ages in the next decades. — Preventing Homelessness in America
What difference can one person make?
If you’re wondering how you can give back during this season, consider the following organizations and gift options that are close to my heart. You can make life better for individuals and families in need.
- Homeward Bound of Marin: The Mill Street Center is the county’s only emergency shelter for homeless men and women. Half of the center’s beds are for night-to-night stays, while the other half are for those who are determined to end homelessness in their lives and are working on a personal action plan to accomplish it. >>Give Now
- Raphael House: As the first shelter for children and families experiencing homelessness in Northern California, they provide an environment of loving support where families can find stable housing and achieve financial independence, while strengthening family bonds and personal dignity. >>Give Now
- JustGive’s Homes & Jobs Charity Collection: Provide jobs, training, shelter, and homes through four organizations that reverse homelessness and joblessness. >>Buy Collection
- Search for other organizations helping to end homelessness in your community, nationally and worldwide. Make your gift recurring, something you can be proud of all year long. >>Search Guide
This holiday, as you cozy up to the fire, light the menorah, hang twinkle lights on your roof, and sit down to your dinner table with loved ones… pause and think about ways to share your warmth and light with others. And give what you can to help the homeless find an affordable, safe and secure place to call home.
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– Michelle Koffler, Marketing Coordinator