It was just after lunch time and I headed for the kitchen at the office to make me a cup of tea. While pouring the steaming water into my cup, I noticed what looked like bags of groceries laying on the counter. I asked if we were having a party and was told that a group of my co-workers meet with their church friends from the Latter Rain congregation early on Thursdays to go walk the streets of downtown Atlanta feeding the homeless. Of course, once I found out, I wanted to get involved somehow. [quote style=”boxed”]When you give of yourself something new comes into being…the world expands, a bit of goodness is brought forth and a small miracle occurs. –Kent Nerburn[/quote]
Every week, my co-workers pitch in to buy food supplies for sandwiches, fruit, bottled water, a sweet treat and a bag of chips to be individually wrapped and placed in a paper bag to be handed out to the less fortunate who roam the streets of downtown Atlanta.
Not everyone feels comfortable doing the actual feeding part, and so everyone participates by contributing either financially, shopping, putting together the bags, or meeting at the streets to pass out the goodies.
The hot Atlanta burning sun hot this morning and the usual open spaces were not as crowded as they tend to be. I was told there is a special event happening in Atlanta and whenever a special event is in the city calendar, the city makes sure the homeless move out of their usual camping areas, so as to not disrupt the people attending the festivities. I asked, where do they go? No one had an answer. they told me, they just have to move somewhere else. As we walked the streets, we met several hungry people we were able to hand off a lunch bag to.
With one leftover box full of food still, we drove to the corner of Courtland and Pine St. (across from the Courtland and Pine Shelter) where an area of town I can only describe as shockingly sad serves as a “camp out” place for the homeless of Atlanta. We needed to get back to the office and so we thought we would just do a drive by and drop off the box for them to share amongst each other.
What happened next was unexpected; one of my co-workers got out of the vehicle to place the box on the ground, when immediately, she was overwhelmed by people running for the contents of the box. We thought she would get trampled on but she made it into the vehicle and we took off. I remember looking back and noticing that small box of food was gone in a matter of seconds. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and shame. ” I am so blessed…” I tought to myself.
Here are some statistics and myth busters from the Homeless Task Force in Atlanta:
- The fastest growing group of homeless people is children under 9 years of age.
- Atlanta is the poorest city in the U.S. for children – more children in Atlanta live in poverty than in any other city.
- 48% of all the children in Atlanta in poverty live in families with annual incomes of less than $15,000 a year.
- For children under age 6 living in female-headed families with no spouse present, the poverty rate is 58.8%.
- Children ages 6-17 living in female-headed families with no spouse present have a poverty rate of 44.9%.
- Current welfare (TANF) benefits are $282 a month for a woman with two children. Could you find an apartment to rent on $282 a month?
- Fewer than 20% of those women and children living on welfare get any kind of housing subsidy.
98 million children in the U.S. have no health insurance. Eight million of those children without health insurance live in working families.
- Did you know that 40% – 60% of homeless people work?
- Minimum wage in Georgia is $5.85 per hour, which yields $12,168 per year, before taxes.
- HUD says you should pay no more than 30% of your income for your housing. (30% of minimum wage yields $270/mo. for rent)
- The average two-bedroom apartment in Atlanta rents for $834/mo. (which is 30% of an annual income of $33,360 or hourly rate of $16+ per hour). Thus, you need to earn $16+ per hour to afford that apartment, according to HUD.
- 46% of the jobs with the most growth between 1994 and 2005 pay less than $16,000 a year.
- 40% of homeless men are veterans.
- The wealthiest nation on Earth has a wider gap between rich and poor than any other nation.
If you like to get involved with a local organization that’s doing something to help the needy in our community, here are some links you can check out:
Homeless Task Force in Atlanta http://www.homelesstaskforce.org
Atlanta Mission http://www.atlantamission.org
Atlanta Dayshelter http://www.atlantadayshelter.org/
Safe House http://www.safehouseoutreach.org/
Boys & Girls Club http://www.bgcma.org/about
Gateway Center http://www.gatewayctr.org/
Do Good http://www.dogoodexperience.com/