TERRE HAUTE —
Two stark reminders to our community emerged in separate stories on the front page of Wednesday’s Tribune-Star.
In one, Indiana’s new governor, Mike Pence, labeled the state’s 20-percent child poverty rate “unacceptable” and “heartbreaking.” The situation is more pronounced in Terre Haute, where more than 1 of every 4 kids under 18 years of age lives in a poverty-stricken family.
Another story described the jump in the number of homeless people seeking shelter at the Light House Mission, a haven on Wabash Avenue. As winter temperatures drop, the Mission’s population rises.
In many cases, a thin line separates families from the struggles of poverty in their own residence and homelessness. A lost job, broken relationship, catastrophic medical bills or the death of a spouse financially unravels an individual or family. Some experience a domestic-violence incident, mental illness or addictions. With nowhere else to turn, they can find food and warmth at the Light House Mission.
The label “homeless” may conjure images of someone far from the situations considered normal to most people. Some statistics, available through the Mission website, verify the homeless are not alien at all. The two fastest-growing segments of the homeless population — which numbers 21,200 on any given night throughout Indiana — are intact families and single women with children. Twenty-one percent are veterans. Seventeen percent have jobs. Thirty-five percent have never been homeless before.
The facility opened in 1890 and aims to “aid, assist, and care for homeless individuals by providing shelter, food, clothing, education, and emergency services without regard for race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, or medical condition.” In addition, the shelter offers residents faith-based recovery services and tries to equip them to lead productive lives.
The task is greatest in January and February as winter sets in.
In last week’s story, Light House Mission director Bonnie Wallace told reporter Lisa Trigg how frigid temperatures drive families to leave houses they can’t afford to heat. “I’ve heard stories of single mothers with children trying to heat their home with an open oven,” Wallace explained.
Sadly, donations drop off just as the need intensifies, as people in the community cut back on charitable contributions to pay off Christmas and holiday debts. That reality is understandable. For those who have a little extra funds or time, there are various ways to help.
Volunteers are needed 365 days a year for the Mission and its women’s shelter, Connor’s Center, through food preparation and serving, painting, cleaning, carpentry and yard care. To volunteer, call 812-232-7001.
Donations make a difference, too. Perishable and non-perishable foods are needed, along with personal hygiene products, household cleaning supplies, basic medical supplies, T-shirts, socks, towels, washcloths, blankets, sheets and pillows. Those can be dropped off at the facility at 1450 Wabash. Monetary contributions can be made online at thlhm.org.
Mild weather may arrive for a few days, but bitter cold frequently follows in this season. As one Mission resident said, “I’m glad I’m not outside right now.”
As a community, let’s rally in this peak time of need to support the people and services who keep the Mission doors open for all.