For many families, this past weekend marked “moving in” day for their college students. My family spent a steamy Saturday afternoon hauling items up many flights of stairs (and on the elevator when we could get it!) into my daughter’s new dorm room. Throughout the move, I kept saying to myself, “Wow, where is she going to put all of this stuff?” I don’t think this phenomenon is limited to college students. If you’re like me, the last time you moved homes, at some point you probably threw your hands up in the air, wondering how in world you were going to move it all, and more importantly, how you ever accumulated it.
Now imagine the opposite of that. Imagine you’re going to move into a new home and instead of too many boxes, too many bags, you have, well….nothing. You might be carrying a backpack with a change of clothes, your important papers, and a cell phone charger. Maybe you have a black trash bag in tow that holds a sleeping bag, a few warm weather items, and another pair of shoes. Your move in to housing just got way more overwhelming. You have some canned food…but you don’t have a can opener. You are tired and dirty and want to take a shower…but you don’t have a towel, let alone a shower curtain. You’d love a drink of cold water from the tap…but you actually don’t have any glasses.
This might sound extreme, but this is the reality for our neighbors exiting chronic homelessness. While they are extraordinarily grateful when a housing opportunity opens up in programs like UMC’s Moore Place or Homeless to Homes, their excitement is often tempered with the sobering reality that they lack the basic household items needed for daily living. It can make the experience of finally getting off the streets feel hollow and often quite demoralizing.
This is where the Welcome Home Kit project comes in. As part of Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the multi-sector initiative to end chronic homelessness in our community by the end of the year, we seek to provide every neighbor who moves into permanent housing the basic items they need to make their new house a home. Our partners at Crisis Assistance Ministry provide the essential furniture for each neighbor’s apartment. The household goods – those can openers, towels, shower liners, glasses, and more –make up a Welcome Home Kit that comes from YOU – friends and supporters in the community that want to play a hands-on role in ending chronic homelessness.
Between now and the end of 2017, new housing opportunities are opening up for our neighbors, and we need 200 Welcome Home Kits in order to ensure that every neighbor has the items that they need. We have a handy checklist of 30 essential items that make up the Welcome Home Kits. Will you make a Welcome Home Kit and help us reach our goal? Putting together the Kits can be a fun group activity for families, neighborhoods, houses of faith, civic associations, book clubs, and more. We also have an option for friends who want to support the effort but may not have the time to shop for all 30 items – we’ve partnered with the Lodging Kit Company and a pre-made kit is easily orderable online and will be shipped directly to UMC.
To get involved, click here for the Welcome Home Kit Instructions. We’ll keep you updated on our progress and celebrate together when we’ve reached our goal of 200 Kits. As for me, I’m still not sure where my daughter’s going to put all her stuff, but I am keenly aware of how fortunate she is to have it – and I know what our family will be doing next to create a truly welcome home for one of our neighbors.