There are a growing number of people in our community, the nation, and indeed the world that are becoming severely affected by the economy, so much so they are becoming homeless, hungry, and lost. Food pantries in St Charles have reported easily a 100% increase over the past 2-3 years in families coming for assistance with basic food needs. There are several area hotels that are regularly hosting displaced families, people that last year had a house or an apartment but this year are living week to week if they are lucky, many night to night.
“Jesus was a daring bridge builder of another kind. Against his own overwhelming odds, he imagined a bridge of unprecedented spiritual influence - one that could span the chasm roaring with skepticism, indifference,, hostility, even persecution. He imagined a bridge able to connect "His Church" to a disbelieving, disinterested world... By exhibiting, through everyday humanity [you and me], His life and love to the world, Jesus expected to the Church to supernaturally attract all men to God. This is the bridge Jesus imagined: a connecting church - a bridge of influence." from Robert Lewis' Church of Irresistible Influence
The summit receives calls as does virtually every church in the area daily from people needing assistance. Families with 3-4 children with the water turned off, disconnects on the electric bill with 2 days to go and 100 degree summer heat bearing down, nowhere else to turn for another nights rent at a local hotel. It is heartbreaking in many cases. Several calls are from people that last year had a home, a job, a car, and a way of life that was at least somewhat normal in America – but then job lost, car unable to pass inspections and get licensed, rent too late so eviction results in living on the street or the daily effort to obtain enough help to stay in a cheap hotel.
It shocks me at first that we can’t turn to family, friends, and co-workers easier when calamity strikes. I mean, who lets someone go to the streets or a shelter instead of inviting them into your home to share the more than adequate space most of us have. I know there are a number of people, who actually choose this style of life and are not really interested in alternatives, but I get calls from many who are really lost and feel stuck. When the bottom falls out, it quickly becomes a downward spiral and hope fades fast. Keep in mind too, cheap hotels run about $900 a month for a single room. But with past rental history plaguing them, even after they get a minimum wage job again, getting a landlord to rent to them is nearly impossible. Some people have been in the hotels for over 2 years, some 3.
Churches are trying to help, providing meals, rents, rides to work or job hunting, resume writing, and so forth but the numbers are increasing too fast. As a community, we need to look for ways to bear each other’s burdens more. Certainly, if there is someone on your neighborhood or work, a friend that is on the bubble, please consider opening your resources up to them a little, whether that means money, food, or housing. Don’t let them end up alone if you have any ability to help. If you can volunteer to help people find homes, make meals and drop them off or at least donate to food drives, benevolence funds, coat drives, etc. The Sharing Shed is a local ministry that accepts donated furniture and gives it to needy families for FREE every week, about 20-30 families a month – beds, tables, couches, refrigerators.
Operation Food Search has food drives all the time to collect food for areas pantries like HOPE Food Pantry on Elm St in O’Fallon. They also help sponsor a program that helps elementary school children get meals on weekends. There are schools in O’Fallon, Wentzville, Troy and other areas where MORE THAN HALF of the kids are on free and reduced lunch programs. These little guys get food for breakfast and lunch Mon-Fri during school time. But weekends and breaks – what then. Hundreds of back packs are sent home every Friday at local schools with food for the weekend for these kids from donors in the community. The problem is, there are many hundreds more not getting these back packs. The Summit is planning to start a back pack program in O’Fallon schools this fall; the cost is about $5 per kid per week. We will start small and hope to raise funds along the way to make a difference. If you are interested in helping you can donate money or food or you can come help pack the back packs each week. Contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The task is daunting for sure but not overwhelming. There are still significant resources in this community, far more than needed to help those that are in need. We don’t need Washington to save our neighbors, we are the ones who know them and we are the ones that can help them. We have to get past the “me first” disease we suffer from and realize there is more to this life than going for all we can get for ourselves, learn to care, learn to share. Volunteer, help, donate, and maybe even sacrifice a little for others.