By Dr. Chad Audi
As President/CEO of the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), it was my pleasure to host our annual holiday party recently for hundreds of disadvantaged children and adults. It made my day to see the smiles on the faces of the kids and to hear the sincere gratitude from the grown-ups.
The holiday gathering gave everyone an opportunity to forget about the struggling economy and to embrace the joy, love and caring of the season. Santa Claus was there to hear the wishes of the children. Needy families received a nutritious, hearty meal. Kids screamed with joy as they opened gifts donated by our generous friends in the community.
For the thousands of children across the country who are homeless or poor, the holidays can be a lonely, unhappy time of the year. They feel sad about not having what other children have. There is no joy in their hearts and no hope for the New Year.
Throughout the year, adults and children come through DRMM’s doors asking for a helping hand. Our staff and volunteers provide them with food, shelter, clothing, education, counseling and spiritual nourishment so that they regain hope for the future. But at this time of the year, it’s even more important to make sure that everyone experiences the magic of the holidays. Especially the children. Every child deserves a Christmas filled with giving and love. That’s what the holidays are all about.
By Dr. Chad Audi
The 2010 U.S. Census is shaping up to be the biggest and most comprehensive effort ever in our history. An estimated 140,000 Census workers and 145 million housing units will be involved in the count that takes place every ten years and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution.
There’s something new in the 2010 Census. It will be the first time that hard-to-reach populations will be counted, such as the homeless living in shelters and on the streets, as well as those in dormitories, group homes and prisons. Another change involves the formerly extensive Census questionnaire, which has been revamped into a simple 10-question survey.
For non-profits that serve the homeless and needy, such as the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), it is imperative that we are prepared, trained and equipped to make sure that all constituents are counted. The entire community needs to be educated on the importance of the Census and how it impacts the amount of federal funding and stimulus money received by municipalities and states. The more people in a state, the more funding that state gets. Some of the federal money is awarded to agencies that provide critical services assisting the homeless and disadvantaged. The Census also determines the number of Congressional seats states are allowed. An increase in population means a state may gain more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. So as you see, getting an accurate count is vital.
The 2010 Census begins in March. Stand up and be counted. Make this Census a success.
By Dr. Chad Audi
As we entered the busy holiday shopping season, a controversy arose over a new doll that supposedly represents a homeless child. The very popular American Girl brand released a limited-edition doll named “Gwen” whose background story focuses on a father who walked out, leaving Gwen and her mother to fend for themselves.
There are thousands of homeless children across the country, living in shelters and on the streets with one or more parents, who have experienced this type of situation in real life. For them, homelessness is very real. It’s not conveyed through a doll. Plus, they could never afford a doll like “Gwen,” which comes with a $95 price tag.
Mattel’s American Girl line is known for creating dolls that help girls deal with real life situations. The dolls represent a diverse range of ethnicities, cultures and economic backgrounds. Each doll has a story that comes with it and reflects certain periods in American history.
I think the new “homeless” doll would be better received if the money from its purchase was donated to shelters and other agencies that help the homeless. Or perhaps even if the company had donated the dolls to kids in shelters. In all fairness, a Detroit newspaper editor reporting on the story discovered that Gwen was actually introduced as part of a bullying back-story, which later expanded into the doll also experiencing homelessness. As a result, Mattel teamed up with a non-profit to develop an anti-bullying curriculum for millions of school kids. And, since its inception, American Girl has donated nearly $9 million in clothing and books to a global charity that helps homeless kids.
But, getting back to Gwen, does a high-priced doll representing homelessness send a mixed message to our kids? Is the doll in poor taste? Or is it a good way to educate and raise awareness about the plight of the homeless? I’m very curious to hear what you think.
By Dr. Chad Audi
There have been some very disturbing stories in the news recently about attacks on the homeless. In some cases, this senseless brutality has resulted in deaths. And just as disturbing is the fact that many of the incidents involve young people. For example, two Michigan teens — both 15 years old — were recently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the beating death of two homeless men. They were only14 years old when the attacks took place, and police say the beating may have been part of a gang initiation.
This type of behavior demonstrates an utter disrespect for human life and particularly the most vulnerable members of our society. And sadly, this is happening across the country. Statistics show violence against the nation’s homeless is soaring and the majority of attackers are teens and young adults. The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty report that of the more than 142 unprovoked attacks on homeless people in 2007, the most — at least 32 — took place in Florida. In fact, the problem is so bad that homeless agencies in Florida have teamed up with schools to develop a curriculum that teaches respect for the homeless.
As we celebrate this joyous holiday season, there’s no better time to remind our young people how precious life is and to teach them about the importance of “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men.” Homeless people are people too. It doesn’t matter what journey a person has taken through life; everyone is deserving of love and respect. We are all equal in God’s eyes.
By Dr. Chad Audi
A recent news story revealed that more senior citizens than ever are showing up at soup kitchens across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports an increase of 81 percent last year in the number of seniors living alone who sought help from food pantries, compared to two years earlier. Catholic Charities USA, which helps the needy, noted a 54 percent rise in requests from seniors for food and services in the third quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2008.
So what does this all mean? Naturally, much of the blame can be placed on the current recession. Retirement funds and nest eggs are drying up. Health care is in flux, making it necessary for seniors to choose between buying medication or food and causing them to skip medical appointments. Social Security and small pensions are not enough to keep up with mortgage or rent payments and utility bills. It’s hard to buy food when the prices keep rising and you are on a fixed income.
At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have a special place in our hearts for the elderly who are suffering through tough times. We do what we can by offering food, shelter, clothing, medical and dental care, and companionship at a time when they need it most — in their golden years. Life can be very lonely when you are aged with inadequate finances or no family and friends around. Many of our senior citizens are too proud and too private to seek help. After all, they survived through the Great Depression and other economic downturns in our history, so they may feel that they can make it now too. But that’s not always possible.
We must respect our older citizens. They have come through a lot and continue to go through a lot today. Check on your elderly neighbors and relatives. Make sure they are eating right and have access to enough food. Spend some time sitting and talking with seniors. We owe it to them.