Last week in my home town I met a homeless family: dad, mom and a little girl. They live in their van. Until recently the girl had been home-schooled, but now, through the work of an organization that serves the needs of the homeless, and works move people out of homelessness, the girl is in the public school system.
This family keeps to themselves. They want to live under the radar. They are uncomfortable around chronically homeless. They live in their van; the dad does free-lance work. They worry a lot about their daughter’s health.
This family lives in my home town, Simi Valley–an affluent suburb north of Los Angeles. This family represents the majority of the homeless in my community–people who have hit the wall of life, who have limited resources to get ahead. They are not substance abusers; they are not living off the system. They simply hit too many life bumps and made some poor choices along the way.
I am proud of a number of organizations in Simi Valley who work to care for people like this family. The Samaritan Center works to move people out of homeless, the Free Clinic of Sim Valley provides medical, dental, legal and counseling services to those who fall between the cracks.
The health of a community is not measured first or solely by good roads, a low crime rate, or fiscal soundness. The health of a community is measured first by its capacity and its will to be a place of hospitality and generosity. Simi Valley still has work to do, but it is well on its way. It is a community working to be generously hospitable, welcoming the stranger, giving without any desire or expectation for a return. I am proud to be a resident.
Monday, December 21st is the day with the longest night. It has been declared Homeless Memorial Day. Remember the homeless family I met, and the scores of homeless people they represent. Together may organizations, faith communities, city governments work to reduce homelessness, to care for these people who live at the margins. May we commit to become “generously hospitable.”