Supporting the Homeless in Loudoun County

I attended a luncheon yesterday hosted by the INOVA Loudoun Hospital’s Chaplaincy Services and Community Affairs offices. The topic of the event was Focusing on the Homeless Children in Our Community. I was invited to this event because of my work over the summer with the Mobile Hope unit which included getting nutritious food into the hands of a few homeless teens that frequent my library. LCPL’s manager of programming and public relations, Linda Holtslander, accompanied me to the lunch, as she has been very supportive of my efforts.

The event’s guest speaker was Stacey Bess, a teacher from Utah whose first classroom experience was in a homeless community underneath a bridge. Yes, underneath a bridge. She has written about her experiences in her memoir Nobody Don’t Love Nobody which was turned into a Hallmark movie Beyond the Blackboard. (Thanks to INOVA for purchasing a copy of the book for each guest at the luncheon.)

What really struck me yesterday was Bess’ description of the ‘loss cycle’. So many of the homeless children she has taught over the years were abandoned, beaten, broken down emotionally and mentally…they were caught in the loss cycle. Everyone that should have loved them either left them or hurt them. They are without support, love, or an education (social, moral, and intellectual); no wonder so many of them cannot get out of the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

‘The foundation of service is love,” she said. We must love them, so that they can know what it feels like, so that they can grow into confident and strong individuals.

Some people think that I shouldn’t get involved in the lives of the troubled teens in my library and community; that I should let social services, the school system, and their parents attend to them. But those institutions so far have not worked well enough for these children. They are still lost, unloved. If I can show them love, then their confidence might grow, which might increase their chances at leading a life unlike the poor one they have led thus far. All they need is for someone to show them that they are worthy of a better life.

The CEO of INOVA Loudoun Hospital closed the luncheon with the question, “How, in this resource-rich county, can we serve these kids?”

I don’t have an answer to that yet, but I belong to a system of community leaders and concerned citizens that will figure one out. Whether it is building more shelters, securing funding for feeding these teens on non-school days, or buying more Mobile Hope vans in order to access more homeless youth on a more frequent basis…we will do it.

I welcome advice and ideas. I cannot do this alone.

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