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Talbot Interfaith Shelter: Warming the Chill of Poverty

by Dwayne Eutsey

With the trees turning such lovely autumnal hues and the temperatures becoming crisp and cool, many of us are beginning to look forward to seasonal festivities.

This time of year also brings with it, though, some bleaker realities as well.

Last Friday morning, for example, when I tuned into WBOC news, there was a segment already in progress on a homeless shelter somewhere on the Shore.

The report ended with the reporter saying the shelter is already full and seeking additional space to house the homeless. News anchor Kelley Rouse lamented the number of children that will be residing in the shelter.

Although I couldn’t locate the full report on the WBOC site, I did find more information on another poverty-related story from the newscast. According to Delaware officials, the state’s Medicaid rolls could top 200,000 by the end of the year as more people fall below the poverty line.

The Associated Press reports that enrollment in the state’s Medicaid program “grew 22 percent from more than 156,000 people July 2008 to more than 190,000 in October.”

These numbers, unfortunately, are part of a nationwide surge in poverty. The Christian Science Monitor reported in September that the poverty rate in America rose from 13.2 percent in 2008 to 14.3 percent last year, the highest level since 1959.

The Maryland Alliance for the Poor reports that 505,000 people in Maryland were living under the poverty line last year. That’s 9.1 percent of the population, which was up from 8 percent in 2008. Census poverty figures indicate that 8.3 percent of Talbot County residents were living in poverty in 2008.

These bleak numbers, statistics, and news reports provide an unsettling glimpse into what is a deepening problem here on the Shore and across the country.

Unless you’ve actually experienced firsthand what George Bernard Shaw called “the chill of poverty which never leaves the bones,” however, all these reports can easily become abstractions that can be debated, massaged, spun.

Ignored.

When I see stories like these, I can’t help but feel in my bones again the shiver of poverty I grew up with as a kid. While my mother, sister, and I were never homeless, I remember we did face eviction once. There were times when our electricity and phone service were shut off. Although my mother worked long, hard hours as a waitress to support us, Social Services threatened at one point to place my sister and me in foster care.

Fortunately, we were blessed with options and resources that kept us from falling through the cracks into homelessness and prevented the state from separating us…options and resources that are not always available to people in similar circumstances, especially today.

That’s why the Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) is so important to our community.

TIS is a coalition of nine local faith communities that provides, from December to April, “temporary shelter to single men, single women, and families who lack adequate housing during the coldest months of the year. It provides dinner, breakfast, and bagged lunches to all shelter guests. It opens daytime shelter space when volunteers are available and temperatures fall below 40 degrees F.”

Each of these places of worship in Talbot County will take turns serving as a host site where people without homes can stay:

Real Life Chapel

Temple B’Nai Israel

St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Easton

Christ Church, St. Peter’s Parish

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Shore Harvest Presbyterian Church

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church

Third Haven Friends Meeting

The holidays are coming and it’s nice to prepare for dinners and parties and spending time with friends and family in the warmth of our homes. But the freezing temperatures also have a different meaning for those in our community who live in poverty or don’t have the comfort of a home.

Thankfully, the Talbot Interfaith Shelter will be doing what it can again this year to help take the edge off of that bone-chilling reality.

If you’d like to help, visit:

http://www.talbotinterfaithshelter.org/You_Can_Help.html

 

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