Imagine you’re a single mother with no job. You have three children and you have no idea how you are going to get them their next meal. You have lost your home and do not know where you are going to sleep tonight or the night after. Imagine not having the resources to provide for your family. Where would you go, what would you do?
This a real issue for real mothers and their children in the Cincinnati area. Bethany House Services, where I have just completed my Service Learning, offers a place for these families to get the resources they need, a place to live and a job so that they are able to survive and thrive on their own. Through their past and present work, Bethany House Services continues to serve those in times of crisis in Cincinnati by giving them the support they need to get out of poverty and sustain themselves, an act which eventually affects the entire world.
In America alone, over three million people experience homelessness each year. One million of those are children. In Cincinnati, homeless children make up about 10% of the homeless population, and the majority of those who are homeless in the Greater Cincinnati area are African-American. This past September, a U.S. Census Bureau survey showed that childhood poverty was on the rise in Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The survey revealed that the number of children who are homeless is the highest is has been in five years.
In 2016, the Childhood Poverty Collaborative, which pledged in 2015 to help families in Cincinnati and Hamilton County get out of poverty by 2020, released a report that showed 85% of families living in poverty in Cincinnati were single-parent households. These are the groups that Bethany House serves. So, why is homelessness among mothers and their children such a big issue where we live?
That question has been asked for more than 50 years since the War on Poverty began. Many people in the area think that we have lost the war here in Cincinnati. Many nonprofits and companies have made it their goal to try and end poverty, and while they have been successful in small ways, poverty is still a big issue. Nine out of every 22 children born in Cincinnati are born into poverty, and the infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the nation. Some blame the issue on the low employment rate throughout the country, yet many people living in poverty are working two or more jobs. While many people are trying to figure out what the big problem is, it can be difficult to solve an issue we don’t yet fully understand.
We are living only 15 minutes away from it all. One of the Mount’s biggest principles is to serve the common good, which includes helping those in need. This Christmas, consider lending a hand. Volunteer your time at a homeless shelter like Bethany House, donate supplies or resources to the homeless, and grab a gift tag off the Giving Tree in Seton Lobby to give a gift to a family. Let’s work together to end childhood poverty in Cincinnati.