Homeless kids need help
By MARY MITCHELL December 10, 2013 2:46PM
A letter from a child in need
Updated: January 11, 2014 6:24AM
There’s a fact you might want to keep in mind as you are racing to complete your holiday gifting: The average age of a homeless person in the United States is 9 years old, according to statistics compiled by a local support center.
So whatever your views may be about how some adults ended up without shelter, you know the children aren’t at fault.
Yet every day these innocent kids suffer the indignity of not having a place to call home. The stress of having to either pile up with impatient relatives or live in a shelter with strangers must take a toll on these children, but their eyes still sparkle with the hope of the season.
“The children are some of the sweetest, cutest, affectionate little people that you have ever seen,” says Renee E. Higgins, senior case manager at Inner Voice, Inc., a program that assists Chicago’s homeless population.
I believe that.
Read this letter from one of them:
I saw you at the Mall. I told you what I wanted but I forgot to tell you if you can’t get what I ask for I’ll take a doll house with a Baby Doll. I like to dress them up.”
The letter is signed: “I (heart) you Santa. I’m 6 years old.”
Every holiday season, Sun-Times readers pitch in to help children like this one by requesting a letter for Santa, or by donating to the Sun-Times Season of Sharing campaign.
This year, children staying at Inner Voice will benefit from that effort.
“It would be a gift for us to see our children with a gift,” Higgins said.
Nationally, half of all unsheltered women and their children are victims of domestic violence.
While these women have taken the first step to protect themselves and their children from an abusive relationship, the holidays can dampen their spirits.
“Hi Santa, Can you please help me make Christmas for my children. We are not choicey, so whatever you get will be helpful,” wrote one mother.
“Although the parents do their best, most have no money for gift-giving, therefore the children exhibit great sadness … because obviously they cannot have what they see other children have,” Higgins explained.
But considering the advertising that bombards children this time of the year, the youngsters at Inner Voice had surprisingly modest requests:
“I want a Mattel password journal. I need a coat, gloves and a hat,” wrote one 8-year-old girl.
“I would like a Hello Kitty blanket, Hello Kitty PJs and Hello Kitty slippers,” wrote another.
The late Rev. Robert Johnson founded Inner Voice in 1930.
Today the organization operates two interim housing programs, four social service programs and two permanent housing programs, including one for persons with disabilities
“We service families who for the rest of the year are living with little hope and with few dreams,” said Abdullah Hassan, director of programs.
“This is the time of year where we attempt to bring some smiles to the children and parents’ faces. Most of the year, it is a struggle, day in and day out, just to survive for most of the families,” he said.
In recognition of the holidays, the organization will provide a party with refreshments for the children. Staff members often bring toys from home to give away, but as you can imagine there’s never enough to go around.
If you are trying to bring the true spirit of the holidays home this season, please consider opening your heart by being a Santa to a homeless child.