United Church of Christ

619 Township Line Road, East Norriton, PA  19403
"An Open and Affirming Community of Faith"

Pastor's Page

The average low temperature for our area in February is 31°F... just below freezing. And in February, Norristown generally averages 11” of snow. This is one of the most difficult – and dangerous – times of the year for over 550,000 sisters and brothers who are homeless. There are sadly many caricatures and stereotypes of homeless people. For example, that homeless people frequently suffer from mental illness or self-medicate with alcohol. This stereotype originated back in the 1980s. Under President Regan, community health legislation was repealed that financed state psychiatric hospitals and institutions. As patients were discharged without access to medications or supportive care, 30% of homeless people in 1984 suffered from serious mental illness. That number has dropped over the past thirty five years. The majority of homeless folks are not mentally ill. And yet the daily stresses of homelessness can cause severe depression and anxiety. Another assumption is that the majority of homeless people are veterans. To be clear, homelessness is a significant problem amongst veterans (and disproportionally affects African American veterans). Still, even with roughly 37,800 homeless veterans, they only make up about 7% of the homeless population. In comparison, 30% of the homeless population is families with children, and the largest increase in homelessness is among unaccompanied children and young adults. CBS News just did a national segment about homelessness on college campuses; students who cannot afford room and board living in tent cities, homeless shelters, or their vehicles, not knowing where their next meal will come from. The face of homelessness is diverse, and increasingly includes mothers with children, and young people.

Perhaps the most damaging and cruel assumption about homeless people is that they are lazy, or just choose not to “get a job.” Many homeless individuals actually have jobs, but are unable to support themselves and their families on current minimum wages. People who are unemployed and seeking employment have myriad hurdles. First, the vast majority of job applications these days are online, requiring computer access. Homeless job-seekers must find a way to pay for transportation to a public library just to apply. Next, applications almost always require a permanent address, contact telephone number, and identification such as a driver’s license. An unsheltered homeless person likely has none of these things. Should a homeless person get a job interview, transportation again becomes an obstacle. Additionally, without access to showers or professional-looking interview clothes, many fail to make that ever-important positive first impression. Finally, if the job-seeker is a parent with children, she or he must somehow find childcare - even if only for the interview; an often prohibitory expense.

Our community is blessed to have the Norristown Hospitality Center, which offers more than just meals to local poor and homeless sisters and brothers in Christ. The Norristown Hospitality Center provides referrals to mental health and rehab services, showers, mail service, IDs, public computer access, and resume prep. They seek out employment partners in the community to help homeless folks overcome the barriers to entering the workforce. This month, on Sunday February 3rd, our youth will raise funds for the Norristown Hospitality Center through their Souper - Bowl of Caring. Additionally, on Sunday March 17th, a guest from the Norristown Hospitality Center will share a “mission moment” during our 10:15AM worship service. There will also be an information table during coffee hour following worship. Let’s take these opportunities to change the way we think about homelessness, and truly help our neighbors. (For more information about the Norristown Hospitality Center, go to:

Pastor Leslie

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