|Watch this 4-min HEAR US video I filmed at|
resource center at Carlisle Cares, I heard the morning murmurs of the early arrivals, those who walked in the brisk Pennsylvania morning from the Quaker Meeting House converted last night into a haven for dozens of homeless adults and kids.
Thuds as the center’s door closed. Rumble of wheels from those wondrously easy rolling suitcases that carry the humble possessions. Grumbles and giggles from big people and little ones.
I spent a few days in Carlisle before continuing my 10th Anniversary, 10,000 mile HEAR US cross-country jaunt, giving talks, screening my documentaries, and doing whatever I can to raise awareness of homeless families and youth.
This tiny borough, population 19,000, has an remarkable 3 shelters that accept families. Even more astounding to the unknowing—the shelters are over capacity. And it was “only” mid October. This program is way over their capacity of 64—a census hovering in the mid 80s and 20+ children.
Babies and toddlers, toted and tugged by stressed out moms and dads. Discarded youth, over 18 (the legal age for shelter admittance, leaving the younger ones to predators and chance). Blended in with mostly single men and a handful of women.
I focused on kids and families. PA has way more than 23,000.
Contrary to the demented rantings of a blowhard media “news” figure who blissfully and erroneously maintains that this burgeoning hungry and homeless kids’ crisis is a hoax, more and more families and youth find themselves with nowhere to go.
And contrary to unenlightened popular belief, most communities have nowhere to go for these vulnerable young people, including hoards of babies and toddlers with desperate and despairing parents, even for the night. Ask around your community—any shelters that accept families, intact or single parents, dads with kids? Are they full?
Even established nonprofit (and I really mean NON profit) programs like Carlisle Cares struggle to patch together a nightly shelter program, utilizing area faith communities willing to turn their halls and classrooms into havens for homeless kids and adults in their community, providing a handful of devoted volunteers to keep watch over their homeless guests. (Donate to their holiday challenge)
Beyond the incalculable numbers (millions, Mr. O’Reilly), are the little things you might not think about that bedevil programs like Cares. They’re not really set up to handle record numbers of kids. They struggle to keep a supply of vitals—diapers, formula, baby food--and have an embarrassing dearth of kids’ stuff—coloring books and games, DVDs, books, and the kind of things that can keep kids busy for a few moments. Kids’ basics—underwear, socks, shoes, coats, clothing—forget it.
One of my HEAR US board members, Rita Sullivan, decided to act on these needs. She’s in Illinois—but she’s met Pat LaMarche, the shelter manager and Babe of Wrath. Rita decided to help the families there. She solicited the items listed below and sent them to Carlisle Cares.
Here's an ongoing wish list for items needed at Cares. New items are best, but gently-used accepted. If you're not near the sweet town of Carlisle, you can order online and have items delivered.
- diapers and pull-ups, all sizes
- formula and baby food
- baby wipes
- coloring books, crayons
- puzzles (all ages)
- kids' books
- kids' socks and undies (new)
(And if you'd rather do this for your local shelter, great! Call and see what they need.)