One of the funnest things about Summit is how much we get to give toward ministry outside the walls of the church. Every year, 15 percent of our budget is leveraged toward our local and global partnerships, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars being given every year. In addition to that standard giving practice, we also give 100 percent of our Christmas Eve offering every year to one or more of our local or global partners. This year’s recipient is (drumroll please)... Before I get into the who, let me say a little first about the why. As you probably know, the issues and challenges around homelessness in Central Florida have been in existence for a very long time, and from time to time become elevated in our collective social consciousness. Then, often because of the complexities of homelessness, the intense focus seems to wane a bit, and homelessness becomes backdrop again until something again brings it to the forefront of our awareness and attention.
Part of what makes eradicating homelessness so complex is that there are any number of reasons for someone being homeless, but our solutions are often one-size-fits-all. The key to success is in addressing the right challenges for the right people. (This is, of course, guesswork on my part as I have never actually eradicated homelessness anywhere, yet—but I think experts on the subject would agree.) For example, while every homeless individual has individual causes for his or her situation, there are two major categories of homelessness that coexist in a community with two very different sets of challenges.
In the first category are those who are chronically homeless. For the majority of the chronically homeless, the causes for their condition are largely beyond their control (such as mental illness or addiction). For many who are chronically homeless, there need to be comprehensive and long-term solutions for stable living, and for many, independence is not a healthy possibility.
The second category are those who are situationally homeless. For those in this category, homeless is not an inevitability but rather part of a cycle that thousands move through who live right on the edge of crisis. People in this category, often described as the “working poor,” are able and motivated to be a part of the solution to the instability in their lives. They have family to provide for and are able and desirous to work, but they are unable to move away from the edge of crisis. There is no buffer in their lives.
A typical person in this category looks like a single mom, employed, working 40-60 hours a week at two or three low-paying jobs with difficult hours. For her, she is always one car repair, one medical bill, or one missed paycheck away from homelessness. She doesn’t have credit and cannot rent in normal housing, and so lives in long-term hotels interspersed with stints of living with her children in their car when they can’t make that week’s rent. For her, solutions to being homeless look different than they do for the chronically homeless. She doesn’t need someone to do for her—no one wants to escape homelessness more than she does. Rather, she needs help in reducing the grinding pressure of living on the margins and maybe even a little guidance in how to build capacity and reserves in her life and for her family.
It is for this woman, and the thousands of men and women like her, that we are giving this year’s Christmas Eve offering.
And this year’s recipient is (drumroll please)... Community Food and Outreach Center! CFOC, one of our local partners, offers individualized services centered around their grocery store south of downtown Orlando. The store sells high-quality groceries at a third of the cost of retail, and individuals who shop there also have access to CFOC’s in-house case management and a number of other non-profits that office there for free. CFOC is doing amazing work in partnering with the working poor to build stability and sustainability, while affirming their dignity and reminding them they matter deeply to God. Because they matter to God, they also matter to us. That is why we are proud to partner with CFOC and look forward to seeing what God does with this year’s Christmas Eve offering.
Community Food and Outreach Center's mission is to help those in need transform their lives by providing food, crisis care, opportunities for education and employment, and a hand up to families, individuals, and children who are fighting to break the cycle of poverty. Read more at communityfoodoutreach.org.