are responsible for the rise in homelessness in America-- the
growing lack of affordable housing and the rise in poverty.
Persons who experience poverty are more likely to experience
homelessness. The number of homeless families with children
has increased significantly over the past decade causing
families with children to be among the fastest growing
segments of the homeless population.
It is estimated that families with
children constitute approximately 40% of people who become
homeless. The proportions are likely to be higher in rural
areas. Additionally, research indicates that families, single
mothers, and children make up the largest group of people who
are homeless in rural areas. Stagnating wages and changes in
welfare programs account for increasing poverty among
families. The Alachua County Homeless Coalition recently estimated
that there are 981 homeless individuals in the Greater
Gainesville area each day. They estimate that 28% (274 of
these people) are homeless members of families, including 16%
Hospitality Network (IHN) was created to provide shelter, meals, and
comprehensive support to families without homes. IHN unites
communities of faith in a collaborative effort to assist homeless
families. "Host" churches and synagogues provide accommodations and
meals, on a rotating schedule, for three to five families (up to 14
people) for up to four months.
Participating congregations furnish
sleeping accommodations and a "hospitality room" where guests relax,
socialize, do homework, or watch television. Guests arrive at the host
congregation at approximately 5:30 each evening and remain overnight.
The host congregation provides the evening meal, breakfast, and a bag
lunch. In the morning children go to school and adult guests go to
jobs or look for housing. Families are provided with the services of a
professional case manager to help them with their quest for
employment, housing, and future stability.With a spirit of warmth and
hospitality, volunteers in the IHN program provide homeless families
with the basic human needs of shelter, safety, and sustenance.
Congregations become temporary homes in which families are treated as
guests and individuals are accepted as they are. In this environment
guests are able to maintain their dignity. The kindness of hosts helps
to diminish the hurt of homelessness and both volunteers and guests
grow and learn from one another.