Thursday, November 24, 2016

“As we roll down this unfamiliar road.../Just know you’re not alone/ ‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”-Phillip Phillips, “Home”

Across the country, people are celebrating the many blessings in their lives.  From the people we love to the gifts we've been given, we spend Thanksgiving being grateful for what we have.

This Thanksgiving, I challenge you do dig deeper.  Today and always, I ask you to remember the things we so often take for granted.  There are so many things in this world that we do not remember to value until they are gone.  I have learned that there is no one better to remind us what we have to be thankful for than those without.  I surveyed 42 clients at the Union Food Pantry, and their stories and overwhelming thankfulness to the volunteers at the Food Pantry is a true example to what gratefulness is.

The clients at the Union Food Pantry have gone through rough times, to say the least.  35 of the 42 are unemployed, 18 have a disability or medical limitation of some kind, and all have a different story to tell as to why they came to the Food Pantry for help.  They represent all walks of life--from ages 21 to 69, from individuals to families of 7, from visiting the pantry for the first time or for 20 years--but they are linked by the volunteers that work to keep the pantry running, as well as by you.

This past weekend, I helped at the Union Food Pantry as the donations from the Union Boy Scouts Drive came in.  Your donations filled the shelves of both the Union Food Pantry and the Second Blessings Food Pantry, but they did so much more.  They gave clients a Thanksgiving that they otherwise would not have.  Because of your donations, clients are "able to put food on the table."  The support that clients receive from the Food Pantry allows them to put money towards electric and medical bills, gas to keep the job for the few who have one, is helping a homeless family save for a place to live, and helps those fortunate enough to have a place pay the rent to stay there.

From job loss to cancer, disability to family death, homelessness to divorce, too many bills to too little income, and every combination there-of, the life stories of the clients vary greatly.  When asked what convinced them to turn to the Food Pantry for aid, one mother replied, "When we were so low on food that we had to eat beans."  A parent of another family, who is currently without housing, replied that they turned to the food pantry after, "I had lost my job [and] turned to drugs.  When I got clean and started straight, [and was] looking for a job, I turned to the food pantry for help."

These individuals are still working to rebuild their lives from desperate situations, and they are all the more grateful because of it.  They consider the food pantry a "God-send", "a blessing", and the key to survival in time of need.  Without the support of the community, they would be unable to rebuild their lives and keep their heads above water.

And so, this Thanksgiving, I ask you to be grateful that your needs are met, and that, no matter what situation you are in, there are people who are here to support you.  Be grateful for everything you have beyond your needs as well, because not everyone has them.  Look to these individuals who are homeless and in need as an inspiration and an example of being able to find the good in life even in times of desperation and need.  Finally, I ask that you keep those in need in your thoughts and prayers today and always, and that those that are so grateful for your help may one day be able to pay it forward.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping." -Chinese Proverb

The rooms are not elaborate: two beds, a bathroom, and a small dresser for the few items a client may have are about the extent of their contents.  The food pantry is not overflowing; in fact, the shelves in the single room are usually completely bare after each day it is open.  Regular maintenance on floors, roofs, washers, water pipes, everything is much more difficult without tools and the money to pay for a plumber or electrician.  Inside the Agape House, resources are basic, but the effect they have is profound.

This statement is the embodiment of what I experienced as I toured the Agape House this past week.  The establishment is simple, but it meets the basic needs and provides a safe haven for homeless individuals across the county.  Inside those eight rooms, individuals have access to soap, toothbrushes, and blankets.  They find shelter from the cold and rain.  They can wash their clothes and shower.   They can direct their focus to rebuilding their lives, instead of worrying about the little things that others so often take for granted.

Every day, the Agape House opens its doors to everyone in need--not just those who are homeless. Anyone in need of a meal is welcome each night to share dinner with other clients and volunteers or receive items from the food pantry.  If a person is in need, the volunteers at the Agape House do everything they can to ensure he/she receives a blanket, or coat, or help paying a bill.  There is even a small "cabin" on sight to house a homeless family if the 8 rooms are filled.

The Agape House is in great need of donations.  Everyone who works there is a volunteer; they donate their time and money to those who are in greater need than themselves, even when their own personal amounts of time and money are limited.  They spend as small amounts of money as possible on the actual establishment, and nothing on anything that would benefit themselves.  Once the bills are paid to keep the lights on, everything else goes towards food and personal care items for the clients.

The Agape House is not a rich establishment, but, compared to what individuals have when they come to the Agape House for help, it is a luxury.  It is so much more important to the volunteers that anyone who needs help can find it in some way, than to spend donations unnecessarily around the establishment.

As Mother Teresa said, sometimes we must "live simply, so others may simply live."

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"It's your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you." -Rumi

How do you know when an organization is truly successful?  Is it the amount of people they help or the number of resources they provide? Or is it something that is based on the results, determined by long-term effectiveness?

The answer: yes.  For an organization to increase their positive impact, they have to balance all of these things, which is why organizations like the St. Patrick Center are so revolutionary in the plight against homelessness.

The St. Patrick Center is successful for two simple reasons: first, they have created a network of resources to aid their homeless clients in all aspects of their life; second, they require clients to work harder than they work.

Those who come to the St. Patrick Center have their most basic need meet first: housing.  As Rich Totsch--who works through St. Patrick Center's Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) in rural counties such as Franklin--noted, having somewhere stable to sleep relieves stress and provides a foundation off of which clients can rebuild their lives.  Clients are asked where they want to live, and the St. Patrick Center looks for housing to rent in that area.  From there, clients sit down and assess their own needs to create a individualized "wrap-around" approach to their situation.  They are given connections to jobs, medical aid, rehab, mental health resources, and life skills.  St. Patrick Center has established programs like McMurphy's Cafe: an employment training program for those who are homeless to undergo training, class time, and employment in the food service industry, allowing them to take the first step towards holding a job of their own.

The most important thing that the St. Patrick Center creates, however, is independence.  While the Center can repair cars, rent homes, and build resources, it is up to clients to utilize them.  When homeless individuals comes to St. Patrick Center, they begin a journey of self-reflection and strengthening.  This journey begins at the origin of their homelessness: their individual cause.  The first step they take is to reflect on what contributed to their homelessness in the first place, and then to determine what they need to do to avoid relapsing from the same cause.  They determine their dreams and goals, and map out a step-by-step plan to reach the end they want to achieve.  With guidance from the St. Patrick Center, they take the first steps down this road, until they are stable enough to walk it without assistance.

And that is where the beauty of the organization is seen: in those that continue to follow their goals into the future.  94% of those who receive aid from the St. Patrick Center reach full recovery from their homelessness.  They are able to keep jobs, pay for rent, and secure savings, health care, and transportation.  To be effective and successful in Rich Totsch's line of work,"You can't just treat and let go.  You have to give support and a plan [for the future]."

Most of the work done by the St. Patrick Center is in St. Louis, where clients have a wide array of resources at their disposal.  In more rural areas, such as our own, it is much more difficult to hold a job if you have no transportation; there are less housing options available; and the amount and type of resources in the vicinity are much more limited.  Even so, the St. Patrick Center extends their reach as far as possible to rural counties, reaching out to St. Charles, Lincoln, Warren, Jefferson, Franklin, St. Francois, and Washington Counties.  It is up to us now to increase the availability of the resources we have, and create those that we don't.

As you can see by their logo, faith is a huge drive behind the work the St. Patrick Center does, and God's hand can be seen in the massive positive effect that they have.  The St. Patrick Center is revolutionizing the fight against homelessness in a simple way: extending to clients a hand-up, not a hand-out.

Friday, October 14, 2016

"The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them." -Unknown

When Amanda Wilkinson asked the students in her program to create "Worry Dolls", the effect can only be described two ways: Heartbreaking.  And eyeopening.

Then again, what more is there to say when a child worries whether or not there will be enough food for him this week?  Or if his mother will come home tonight?  Or if one of the strangers that is constantly in her home will come into her room while she's sleeping?

While most of us can't imagine having these types of worries when we were young, these are the types of fears that Amanda battles every day in the Union RXI school district with her Pinocchio Program: an early intervention program provided by Crider Center for children in Kindergarten through 3rd grade to battle social and emotional complications.

Yes: we have kindergartners who worry about not having enough food or security or shelter or love in their life.

While not all participants are homeless, some are, many are from impoverished families, and all are fighting factors that could lead to problems down the road--problems such as homelessness.  Some children in the Pinocchio Program have, and continue to, suffer from trauma of some kind, whether it is  not knowing if they will have enough food to eat or a place to sleep that night, witnessing the abuse or neglect of a loved one, enduring abuse or neglect themselves, a parent's substance abuse or mental illness, or various other situations. If healthy coping skills are used, individuals can work through trauma and eventually heal.  On the other hand, without these skills, individuals often--in an effort to eliminate the pain trauma leaves--resort to "dysfunctional coping mechanisms." As with anyone who experiences trauma, we may begin to search for a way to numb the pain we feel--to create a distraction from our own past.  Unfortunately, these situations create common coping methods that aren't exactly healthy ones: substance abuse, depression, difficulty building healthy relationships, self-harm, and aggression--all of which can (and often have) lead to homelessness and poverty down the road.

This is where Amanda and other counselors step in: it is their job to help students "discover healthy ways to work through their feelings and emotions", so that they are better prepared to handle any hardships that they may face in the future.  Poverty and mental illness are largely intertwined, and both together make a cycle that is extremely hard to break--even from generation to generation.  For that reason we have to intervene as early as possible to show these children that, while their past experiences are out of their control and they were NOT the reason these things happened, their future and their personal happiness is up to them.  The goal of the program, as well as Amanda's personal mission, is that if we, "Can teach them coping skills and self-confidence, and teach smart decisions, it will carry over [to adulthood]."

And the effects of the Pinocchio Program's work is the difference between night and day: children who begin the program spending their entire school day without taking their hood down, or raising their hand in class, or saying a single word to anyone, grow to be able to be engaged, self-confident, motivated, and self-loving.  The counselors use things such as a feeling board, play therapy, and mini lessons about things like kindness and self-respect to touch the lives of multiple students in various Franklin County school districts each year.

Organizations like Crider--who established the Pinocchio Program--have put their heart and soul into helping tackle issues in our community.  They have dedicated their lives' work to pairing those who need aid with doctors, dentists, psychologists, mental health specialists, transportation., and a network of community resources.

Our lives affect who we are.  Anything that we do at any age shapes our lives, but we have to decide how to use that past to determine what we want the future to be.  The only way to truly end homelessness and poverty is to eliminate the factors that cause them.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that, in 2013, over 257,000 homeless people in the U.S. suffered from severe mental illness or chronic substance use disorder.  We need organizations like Crider because they find personal, individual ways to help clients grow and overcome problems such as these--and the Pinocchio Program starts with our youth, to provide a way to overcome obstacles both before and during homelessness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Throughout this project, I've talked a lot about what one organization or another does to eliminate homelessness.

Now it's your turn.

While this entry won't contain any facts or statistics, I hope you find it the most inspiring one so far.  What this blog contains that the others haven't is the chance for you specifically to make a profound difference and experience at least a piece of what it would be like to be homeless.

On April 21st, 2017, I will be hosting a Homelessness Awareness Lock-in on the football field at Union High School.  While we are opening up sign-ups first to Union High School students and Union RXI District staff, the plan is for this to be a community event, open to community organizations and groups.

But, of course, the main thing you need to know is what's going to happen once we get there: the main focus of the night is a surprise activity (so I can't tell you yet!), but trust me--it will be eyeopening.  It will be a night full of experiences that are not available anywhere else in our area.  My hope is to create a night full of keynote speakers, service projects, raffle prizes, a soup kitchen, and much more.  And, to tie in the information we've built up over the past month or two, there will be booths for some of the organizations that prevent homelessness, giving you the chance to see exactly what they stand for and how you can help.

And then, participants will sleep overnight on the football field to experience for one night what it is like to sleep without shelter.  While we could never know exactly what it is like to be homeless without truly experiencing it, the goal of the night is to raise awareness about their situation in a hands-on way, and to raise funds and supplies for organizations who fight homelessness.

As a final fundraiser to support these organizations (and for those who aren't too keen on sleeping on the football field), the plan is to open up the cafeteria to the public for a benefit breakfast April 22nd.

Please note that all of this is just in the planning stages right now.  Nothing (other than the date) is totally set in stone, so I will keep everyone updated as new information arrives.  I will also let you know when it comes time to sign-up, so keep checking in!!  This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many--if not all--involved, and I hope you will all sign up to participate.  If you have any questions or are interested in helping in any way, feel free to comment or contact me!  This is our chance to do something that has never been done in our area before, and I thank you all in advance for the support you will provide to our community.

Monday, September 26, 2016

"Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm." -Unknown

The Catholic Church is the most charitable institution in the world.

On both world and local levels, they have invested countless volunteer hours and amounts of money into weaving charity and hope into the lives of those in desperate need of both.  So, what does something so large have to do with poverty and homelessness in Franklin County?

Sure, volunteers may be Catholic, people who donate money may be Catholic, but one thing (and this is just one example) that the Catholic Church itself has done is develop its own branch of aid at each parish: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

All to often, people are faced with a very difficult decision: buy food, medicine, gas, whatever it may be, or pay the bills to keep the utility company from shutting of the water, electricity, etc. at my house.  In other words, decide between what I need to survive and what I need to survive.  As you can guess, it's not an easy decision to make.  That's where the Society of St. Vincent de Paul steps in and opens its doors to those in need.  When people come to the branch of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul where they live (in Union's case, Immaculate Conception Church and its pastor, Fr. Joe Post), they are often, as Fr. Joe points out, "behind several months [on paying bills] and usually call for assistance when the utility company is threatening to shut off the utility."  Now, the funding for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul relies solely on the generosity of those in the parish and community (and, in the case of Immaculate Conception's branch, Vincent's Closet), so the aid that can be provided is definitely limited, but the Society of St. Vincent de Paul finds a way to give one of the most meaningful gifts this world has to offer:


In August alone, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul distributed over $12,000 to 50 families and individuals, providing a little more time for them to establish a safety net for themselves.  Aid can only be given once in a year to ensure that everyone who needs help can receive it (again, funds are limited), but Fr. Post and other volunteers of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul "work hard to take care of the needs of the most desperate and those who truly need the help."

Although this utility assistance program's main clientele is not homeless (there are other Catholic charities that focus on that), many of those that receive aid would be homeless  without its existence.  While the program is not flawless--no program ever is--the Society of St. Vincent de Paul makes an impact on the lives of both volunteers and clients.  Each client's aid is based on their individual need: if there are specific needs or cases outside of the assistance usually given, the Society forms a web of support between parishes and agencies and anyone they need to to give the recipient the help that they need to keep moving forward with their lives.

Along the way, all involved gain something that doesn't have a price tag: the gratitude that comes when we realize someone is behind us to steady our feet and guide our steps on this road that we call life.

There are so many organizations like this one that provide the amazing gifts of time and physical resources to allow those in need to rebuild their lives, but, starting now, we're going to take this in a new direction.  Starting now, we'll begin to discover what is and isn't and should be done to aid people on even deeper levels.  It's time to tackle the root of the problem.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Some people cross your path and change your whole direction." -Unknown

I was leaning against a table full of crates of food when he was ushered into the room.

Unlike the others that had come before him, he wasn't pushing an abandoned shopping cart; instead, he had a bag and an old, gray backpack that had long-since seen better days slung across his shoulders.  His clothes and hair could be described as nothing other than disheveled, and he had to have only been in his twenties.  I tore that room apart looking for the right things to give him: enough to last for a month; only as much as would fit in the backpack and bag; things that could be eaten straight out of the package, without being frozen, heated, or prepared in any way.  Eventually, with a backpack stuffed to the brim with water bottles, snacks, cereal packets, and everything else I could cram in there, there was a quick, "Have a good day!", "Thanks.", and thud of the door behind him. I watched him out the window as he walked past the lucky few who were loading groceries into their beat-up cars, past the others who lined the sidewalk waiting for a ride from a friend, and into the heart of town to wherever the sidewalks carried him.

For years I have volunteered at the Union Food Pantry in some way or another.  I've been hugged over a jug of milk, become a toddler's best friend because of peanut butter crackers and pudding, and made multiple people cry by simply slipping a frozen pizza or box of ice cream or school supplies into their cart, but the day this man came through the door was one of the most inspiring ones for me.  This was the first time that I realized that there are homeless in our hometown--that some people's lives are contained to the streets we travel. Then, I began to understand what had been in front of me the whole time: most of the people who I saw there every day were on the edge of homelessness themselves.

Sitting on a desk in the Union Food Pantry is a binder of papers for those who have come into the Food Pantry in the last 6 months.  Five inches worth of paper contain the names of hundreds of people in the Union RXI School District who have received aid in the last 6 months.  The Food Pantry tries to be as temporary as possible, requiring strict guidelines for who can or cannot receive aid (based on their location and gross income) to ensure that those who truly need help have access to it, and can use the money they save on groceries for things such as medical or utility bills.  People across every spectrum of age and situation have turned towards the Pantry to help them get back on their feet.  For the past 25 years, the Food Pantry has relied on the generosity of the community, and the community has relied on the generosity of the Food Pantry.

With over 160 clients a month, the Union Food Pantry has touched the lives of many over the years.  And it is clear: in the people who return years later to donate, the people who volunteer or donate to make a difference in their community, the clients who come bearing news of a new job, the people we work with or go to school with or stand behind in the gas station line who have a place to go home to tonight and a meal to eat when they get there.

What is also clear, however, is the need.  Individuals and families who do not have enough income or resources to purchase food flock to the shelves once a month.  Senior citizens, disabled, parents just trying to provide for their children--all walks of life are represented in those 160 people each month, broken down to 20+ people helped each day the Food Pantry is open (two days a week, two hours a day).  While most clients have shelter of some kind--no matter how poor of condition it may be in--many do not.  Families and individuals travel from their abandoned buildings and bridges, makeshift tents and vacant lots to wait on the sidewalk until the Union Food Pantry opens its doors and arms and hearts to ensure that, at least for today, they have something to eat. And that is what volunteering at the Union Food Pantry has taught me: that a meal is never just food.  It is a lifeline.  It is the hope that today I will survive, tomorrow I will have to chance to rebuild my life, and one day, I will have enough to give back and pay it forward.

More importantly, my work there has taught me that people's lives are not contained to the streets.  They are shaped by that single second in time when they decided to be brave; their tragic memories skip across their dreams; they struggle to keep their heads above water when things go wrong; in a word, they are us.  They are human.  They are flawed, generous, creatures of habit, people who are just trying to help each other out and find their place in this crazy, ugly, beautiful world that we share...

...Which is our ultimate journey, our next step: to keep bringing light to the people who have dedicated themselves to helping those in need, to find a way to do this in our own personal lives, to share our knowledge of this need to the rest of the world, and to build something better where the sidewalk ends.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you are not going to stay where you are." -John Pierpont Morgan

Alongside the service road in St. Clair, MO sits what used to be the Scully Restaurant and Motel. Now, it Franklin County's one and only homeless shelter.

Welcome to the Agape House.

While Franklin County has a few organizations that provide emergency shelter, they are usually for one specific purpose, such as victims of domestic abuse, and are very short term.  The Agape House is the only organization that provides shelter to anyone in Franklin County who is homeless.  At the same time, the Agape House isn't your typical homeless shelter.  Clients are required to follow the shelter's rules and work to support themselves.  Things like working, saving money, not having any drugs or alcohol on sight, and following the 10:00 p.m. curfew are all required of the residents, but the most important requirement is that they have to acknowledge the reason they became homeless and work to solve this problem.  For this reason, many people who need assistance will not stay at the Agape House.  It is often difficult to admit that we are part of our own problems, and for those who are homeless it is no different.  Because of this, some only stay a day before continuing on their way.

But, for the number of people who do this, there are many more who stay and change their lives.  In an interview with the Missourian newspaper, Jim Armistead of the Agape House spoke of the 25,902 individuals who have spent time there between 1985 and 2012.  People from all backgrounds, all walks of life, have decided to put in the immense time and effort it requires to rebuild their lives, and turn towards the Agape House for guidance.  Besides providing housing, the Agape House helps recipients pay for utilities and medication, manages a food pantry, and even supplies clients with clothing and household items that have been lost in disasters.  From single moms to families, attorneys to unemployed, recently released from jail to flood or fire victims, the Agape House reshapes over a thousand lives each year.

The only problem: the amount of people the Agape House doesn't get the chance to affect, but instead must turn away.  The building only contains 8 rooms--all of which are continually occupied on a first come, first serve basis.  The shelter receives 10-20 calls a day as people who are trying to escape their situations search for a place to rebuild.  Some call once a day, in the hopes that a room has been vacated; others are first-time callers searching for a safe haven; but all deserve the chance at a new life.  To do this, every penny that comes in the door is put towards helping the homeless, and every worker at the Agape House is a volunteer.  Even so, the shelter relies solely on private donations, and many people in our county have no idea the shelter even exists, much less the magnitude of change it provides.  All the while, homelessness rates are on the rise.  Kathy Jennemann, a volunteer at the shelter, described it this way: "Being homeless isn't just being in a shelter.  It's living with grandma, or other's not having a permanent place to call home, and I don't think people realize how broad that is, because it's a big problem--and it's getting worse."

So here's my question:  Who are we to not help them rise? Where would we be if no one ever gave us a second chance in our lives? What if the first time you fell down and decided to get back up, no one would give you their hand? The clients of the Agape House are not strangers; they are community.  They are someone's family, someone's reason to smile today, someone's friend or neighbor or hero.

And to every one of us in this community, they are our future.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Roads were made for journeys not destinations." -Confucius

For the past week, I've been jumping from one website to the next, analyzing one study report after another, and this is what I've discovered: In 2015, UMSL's Missouri Statewide Homelessness Study Report found that around 550 children enrolled in JUST the Union, Sullivan, St. Clair, New Haven, Meramec Valley, and Londell school district were considered homeless.

While that number might not seem huge, let's break it down.  Unfortunately, most homeless fall through the cracks undetected.  They often have no job, no address, no means of contact. These 550 kids are the ones who attend school, the ones who have been reported as homeless.  There is no way to know exactly how many in our county are living on the streets.  So, we do the best with what we have.  We crunch the numbers for what we do know, and one thing we know is that there are thousands of people on the edge of homelessness--and I do mean thousands.  The STL Children's Services Coalition 2014 Needs Assessment showed 13,000-14,000 people in Franklin County are impoverished.  Food prices aren't cheap.  Neither is gasoline, utilities, vehicles, education, medicine, and especially not housing.  And it is very likely that these prices will increase.  We have 13,000 known neighbors hanging on by the skin of their teeth, praying that life doesn't throw anything more at them, because one more obstacle may very well be the insurmountable, and the road may become a destination.

While these numbers are important, homelessness is a very human issue.  For that reason, from here we hit the streets: talk to organizations that work to combat homelessness, discover what they believe the need is, and continue on our quest to make the road a path to recovery, not a destination.

The first stop: a place thousands have turned too, yet others may not even know exists...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Franklin County Tractor Cruise!!

Hey guys!!
Across the globe, food pantries are combating poverty and homelessness in many ways.  Whether it is providing meals for the homeless or groceries to families so that parents can direct their income towards paying for medical bills, housing, heating, etc., food pantries do a lot of good in our communities.  For that reason, they need a lot of support from our communities.  As a fun way to show our community's support and gratitude towards our food pantries, the Knights of Columbus has organized their annual Tractor Cruise to collect donations and canned food.

So, here comes my first challenge:  When you're at the grocery store this week, grab an extra can or two of food; place yourself somewhere along the 30 mile route on September 11th; watch the tractors roll through; and show your community that you care.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step" -Lao Tzu

For many people, a road is just that: a road.  Plain and simple, it is the path we take to and from school or work or home, and that's about it.  Unfortunately, others see it differently.  To the man you drove past this morning, it is a post where he'll station himself all day in the hope that a few disregarded coins will be tossed his way through cracked passenger windows.  To the kid you sat next to in class, it will be a constant stream of pavement beside the unforgiving sidewalk where she and her siblings will try to sleep tonight.  To homeless people across our nation, state, county, city, neighborhood, it will be a place to live--but to no one will it ever be home.  

These people are the reason I am writing this.  In a world where we observe poverty everyday, how often do we actually see it?  My goal is to bring light to the people we all too often let slip below the radar.  For example, when Missourians think of homelessness, they usually think of large cities, but homelessness is a growing problem in rural areas too.  Throughout my research, I hope to learn some of the stories behind the people--not just their situations.  Why is it that our land of opportunity has so many who struggle to survive?  And what does it take to prevent and reverse homelessness?  Granted, it is very difficult to study homelessness across our great nation, so we'll begin with someplace simple: home.  I hope to share with you how this growing epidemic is affecting Missouri--or, more specifically, Franklin County--and the ways that I believe we can impact it.  Once we realize these things, we can begin on our path to eliminate homelessness from our culture and build a road home.  

Welcome to the journey,