Community of Christ Youth Group Lobbies for Homeless Youth
Posted on 06/28/2011 @ 12:30 PM
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you somehing to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king shall answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Matthew 25:37-40
Last Friday, I was honored to host a Community of Christ youth group from Independence, Missouri. I was delighted to hear that they were coming, as I'm from Independence, and the youth leaders had been my youth leaders when I was in high school. It was their first contact with FCNL and their first experience lobbying. They were on the last leg of their peace and justice tour; they had traveled across the country, visiting sites like the civil rights museum and the holocaust museum. The purpose of this trip was to teach the youth that when progress has been made, it was made because someone stood for justice; and injustice thrives when people do not speak for it. So we thought that perhaps a visit to Capitol Hill would be a natural fit; to find something that needed to be spoken for, and to speak for it.
Homelessness is a big problem in the Kansas City area, and the recession has made everything a lot worse. There are over 400 children in the Independence School District who are classified as homeless. Homeless children and teen's education suffers due to their housing situation, as they move frequently, their attendance drops, they drop out or are discriminated against. The National Alliance to End Homelessness is working to sustain and add funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which provides housing support and studies the condition of the one million United States students who are classified as homeless.
I was unsure how a group of high school students, who were not politically active, and had not been introduced to lobbying, would react to my training. In fact, during the training itself, the adult leaders appeared to be the most excited and engaged, while the young people were rather quiet. In the training, we explained that because the trip was about teaching the youth about standing for peace and justice, it would be the youth who would do the talking during the lobby visit. I advised them to speak in their own words, and to reach the staffer on a personal level.
Quite nervous, we started the lobby visit with William Chapman, a legislative correspondent for Sen. McCaskill. I was amazed and touched by their incredibly articulate and deeply felt testimony about the kids they went to school with. Each person there knew someone who was homeless, who had been kicked out of their home, who had left their home, or whose family was without stable housing. They spoke about how difficult it was for those kids; what it was like to be their friend and to try to help them the best they could; how they worried it affected the rest of their friend's life; and how it affected the overall quality of education at their school. Senator McCaskill's staffer was also impressed with their testimony, and expressed the importance of their continued advocacy. He said, "It's up to you. If you don't bring [it] to our attention, it doesn't get brought to our attention."
I felt deeply honored and blessed to be able to help give these kids voice. I am very, very proud to be part of a faith tradition that is moving out in faith, trying something new and answering the call. Mostly I feel lucky that my time at FCNL has been a collection of lots of little experiences like this, that I can take with me.