Delicate white crystals of beauty drift slowly down in the glow of our street light. Individually, the snowflakes are intricate works of art. Collectively, they are a powerful force, freezing the earth , life’s busyness, and even the sounds of the city. I am so thankful on days like these for my nice warm home — my shelter from the storm.
Because, not everyone here in Philadelphia has a nice warm place to come home to. According to a study done in 2012, there are over 12,000 homeless people in Philadelphia. About 5,000 of these homeless individuals are children. Many people experiencing homelessness have substance abuse or mental health issues, but there is also a significant number of people who are left homeless due to domestic violence or other issues.
Domestic violence is one of the key reasons why “Apple” Bailey finds herself homeless in the new movie, Gimme Shelter. The movie stars Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) who plays a pregnant teenager forced to flee her violent mother in the hopes of finding a true home. Having spent much of her life in various foster homes, she is reluctant to make her residence in a special shelter for pregnant teens.
I had the wonderful opportunity to preview the movie this weekend, and I was impressed with its powerful message. Gimme Shelter shows the ugliness of domestic violence and substance abuse in a raw, honest way. It also presents homeless shelters as a beacon of hope for people in need.
There are about 25 homeless shelters in Philadelphia, and they provide a wide range of services, from counseling and childcare to drug and alcohol treatment and follow-up services (after leaving the shelter). Some shelters even provide smoking cessation and diabetes educational programs. Many shelters welcome volunteer efforts. Donation items are always needed. Some shelters need help with childcare or afterschool programs.
More than providing for the physical needs of their occupants, many homeless shelters seek to present the One who can be the great Shelter from the burdens of life.
When I was a junior in college I volunteered at the Red Shield Homeless shelter on Broad Street here in Philadelphia. I am so thankful for the experience. I was supposed to create craft projects for the children at the shelter to do after school, but I learned so much from them! They were unhappy with the stigma of being homeless, but they liked to do things that all kids liked to do. They enjoyed doing crafts, playing games, and they even taught me how to do double dutch jump rope!
As homeschoolers, sometimes our schedules can be flexible enough to help organize fund-raising programs, toy drives, or even provide meals. The giving of our time can be such a help to needy families and at the same time enable our own children see beyond their own little comfort zone.
Psalm 91:1 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Psalm 61:4 “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”
Isaiah 58:6 – 7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen …. to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter …”
For more about homelessness in Philadelphia, click here: http://www.projecthome.org/advocacy/facts.php
For a list of Homeless shelters in Philadelphia, click here: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/cgi-bin/id/city.cgi?city=Philadelphia&state=PA)
For more on how one family volunteers at Red Shield, check out this article: http://www.use.salvationarmy.org/use/www_use_philadelphiadhq.nsf/vw-text-dynamic-arrays/4F9A8658B7D88042852574260059CD43?openDocument&charset=utf-8
To see the trailer for Gimme Shelter, click here: http://gimmeshelterthemovie.com/ or here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwTfTwVogQ0 (Note: The movie comes out in theaters tomorrow, January 24th. This movie is rated PG-13 and is meant for mature audiences.)
Copyright January 22, 2014 by Gwen Fredette