THE FACE OF HOMELESSNESS
A Better Home for Women and Children in Crisis
Union Gospel Mission
By Merrily Brast, Staff Writer
THE FACE OF HOMELESSNESS
Let’s play a word association game. I say “homeless.” Quick. What
picture comes to mind? Did you picture a man? A panhandler? A woman or
Truth is, the face of homelessness is changing. Nationally,
families make up over one-third of the homeless population, and while
the number of homeless individuals has decreased, the number of
homeless families has increased (HUD Annual Homeless Assessment). The
overwhelming majority of homeless families are made up of single moms
age 30 or younger with an average of two children.
UGM has seen firsthand a rise in the number of women and children
coming through our doors. The Crisis Shelter served nearly 3,500
different individuals over the past two years.
UGM Executive Director Phil Altmeyer attributes the change, in
part, to family breakdown. Women neglected as children enter a cycle
in which they find themselves, once again, abandoned as adults,
responsible for supporting children on their own.
“I don’t think people are aware of it. We’ve got a hundred women
in this place due to different reasons… 25 kids from three weeks old
up. 25 kids in this shelter alone. That’s sad.” - Crisis Shelter guest
The old motel where the Crisis Shelter is currently located wasn’t
constructed to meet such high demand, and while it has offered
hundreds of women hope since opening in 2007, a new facility will
better serve more women. A new facility will also communicate UGM’s
central message more effectively: Everyone has value and dignity.
Every person is created in the image of God.
A NEW HOME:
Clothes still in dryers, coffee grounds still in the machine, the
occupants of a local senior center abruptly walked away. The
commercial kitchen, formal dining room, and 34 wheel-chair accessible
rooms made the building a perfect purchase for UGM, and after
renovation, the much newer, larger facility will welcome women and
children in crisis - providing a safe refuge, a place to pause and
Not only will the Mission be better equipped to serve guests and
offer a full-range of resources to help them return to society as
contributing members, the current Shelter will be re-purposed to begin
addressing the needs of homeless youth.
Initially, the Student Impact Center will be a residential
community for like-minded young adults interested in urban outreach,
particularly to youth living on the streets, residing in juvenile
detention, or without clear support systems. College students will
receive hands-on training in ministry to the young, poor, and
homeless. And the possibility of providing teen shelter and youth
recovery will be explored in the near future.
For several years, UGM has hoped to offer a better home for women
and children in crisis, and we’re incredibly excited to finally have
the space to do so!
You can find out more about this new home for women and children
in need at www.uniongospelmission.org.