One Big Family at Dorothy Day House

Job loss, medical bills, unanticipated debt!  
Financial burdens.

A hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake!
Natural disasters. 

A fire, a crime, an illness or addiction!  
Traumatic events.

Death, divorce, domestic disputes!  
Personal tragedies.

Living in poverty or close to the poverty line! 
And sometimes not so close.

This is a list of some of the answers to a question the Service Learners have been pondering.
What could cause a FAMILY to become homeless?
If you've been following our Martin Luther King, Jr. Month of Service Learning, you know that our month-long service project is focused on addressing homelessness in our community. As we've learned more and more about what it means to be without a home, we've also dispelled some of the common misconceptions surrounding homelessness and discussed the differences between chronic homelessness and temporary homelessness.

A homeless person does not always look like the mental picture we may have of a man sleeping under newspapers, on a park bench. According to Sister Maureen Griner, Founder and Director of The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality, at this very moment in Memphis,  a family experiencing temporary homelessness is living in their car. This is a fact that many adults don't know and one that blew the minds of the kids who volunteered to provide dinner for the residents of Dorothy Day House.

We gathered together to prepare a baked potato bar. A group of 8 volunteers washed and wrapped potatoes and prepped all the toppings. While we worked, we learned that the Dorothy Day House of Hospitality provides housing and support to Memphis families who are experiencing temporary homelessness. We talked about the causes of temporary homelessness (listed above) and considered how our own lives might be changed by any one of those situations. Then, I asked them a question.

"What do you think I would do if I were temporarily homeless?" 

"Go to a shelter!" 

"Sleep outside!"

"Live in your car!" 

"Dorothy Day House!" 

Though no one offered the correct answer, all of the suggestions were very logical and informed guesses. If I personally lost my home due to a traumatic event or natural disaster, personal tragedy or financial burden, I'd call my mama!  It seemed so obvious to them- the idea of calling mom- and yet so inconceivable that grown-ups might still need their parents. It was as obvious and inconceivable as the idea that, during tough times, many people lack the support of family and friends.

This! This is why we prepared a meal. This is why we sat down to dinner with families we just met. This is why we learned that serving The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality helps families stay together during hard times. No matter how people (families) come into homelessness, they need support to overcome it. Sometimes that support comes from a different kind of family- a caring community.

 Spread the Word
People who don't know about Dorothy Day House don't yet know that they want to help. I've said it before and I'll say it again! One of the easiest ways you can help organizations like Dorothy Day House is by telling others.

Get Social
My friend, Lauren Squires, recently wrote, "Social media is now a tool of empowerment." She is so, so right! It seems trivial, but liking, pinning, sharing, and tweeting can garner more attention and even support for non-profit organizations like Dorothy Day House. Click here to get started.

Individuals and groups can sign up to provide Monday Night Meals at Dorothy Day House. From house maintenance to moving furniture, sorting donations to assisting with fundraisers, there are a variety of ways to share your talents and get involved. Click here to find out about volunteering. 

Of course, you can give a monetary donation. You might also consider an in-kind donation. Items like toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, napkins, dish and laundry detergent, cleaning products, and garbage bags are always needed. The next time you're cleaning out the toy box, closet, or linens, consider contacting Dorothy Day House to see what they can use!

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