As we see a national slowing of the spread of COVID-19, the fallout has severely affected homelessness. As we have seen the number of homeless students on the rise before the pandemic during the 2019-2020 school year, the current state of homelessness for these students and their families has brought the crisis into the parking lots of Walmart, Home Depot, and other like establishments. Subsequently, these establishments end up contacting the police to get rid of those looking to park their car-home somewhere safe for an evening, while trying to catch even a nap, as restful sleep is typically not in that equation.

I have allowed those seeking an overnight spot to rest in our church parking lot, giving them a business card to present any law enforcement that might need to verify the situation for my protection and the protection of church property. While we don’t have the funds to help sustain this vulnerable population monetarily, our Clean Kids Backpack Program does have a perk in that we usually can provide a new toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and various other items donated by the local caring community and those out there who have been generous to our cause.

Folks will head out the following morning to wherever they can find a place to wash up, and some come back for another evening in the lot, and some don’t. Most move on to try and find monetary resources.

I have heard of other churches offering the same respite in their parking lots, and it warms my heart to see even these small gestures of sharing our space with those unable to obtain overnight accommodations. We have given away a dozen family-size tents that set up and break down in two minutes in the past few months. We understand folks can’t always find a means to fill up their gas tanks and have to hold out somewhere for a while. Sleeping mats and light sleeping bags here in Florida seem to help a lot. This is where a lot of our financial resources are spent as it is about a $700 plus investment to get a homeless family situated with this type of shelter. While our primary focus is on students, we extend our charitable outreach when able.

There are multiple areas of need to help improve the setting for a homeless child and their family. While most people feel the economic pinch from time to time, homeless students are feeling overwhelmed, so a tent, something to sleep on, some personal hygiene items, and perhaps even a couple of dollars will often bring tears because it translates that someone actually cares for them, even if they don’t know who it is. For the most part, our Executive Director, Kevin Robert, and I work with the homeless liaisons of school districts, and we never meet our clients. We attempt to do our best to help our clients maintain their dignity, so there is media attention we do not seek, just for that reason. It’s a challenge because the public wants to see, so I always ask, “If it was you, would you want to be seen by everyone?” Unless the attention has a tremendous potential reward, the answer almost always is “No.”

We appreciate your understanding and encourage you to keep sharing our blogs and events with your friends and family. Your considerations continue to remain so very thoughtful, and thanks for including CKBP into your day.

For the kids today and tomorrow, I remain,
Father Mark, Chairman