Nicholas* is an enthusiastic seven-year-old with a strong eye for color and form and a burning desire for his three-times-a-week phys ed to be replaced by art. “We only get art once a week—I hate gym and it’s not fair.” As someone who always enjoyed paint and glue a lot more than dodgeball and picking teams—two activities that probably aren’t too common in today’s elementary gym classes—I can certainly relate.
Nicholas’s artwork—now adorning my fridge! Thank you!
Nicholas’s older sister, Jasmine, teaches me how to teleport (an activity that relies on your companion being willing to close their eyes while you dash across the room) and their friend, Davon, has a lot to say about what will happen if Trump gets elected—none of it good!
In many ways, these three are typical elementary and middle school kids: active, inquisitive and eager for your attention. But in one critical way they’re not: they’re all clients of The Road Home Dane County, Madison’s only homeless resource that caters exclusively to families with children.
Founded in 1999, The Road Home (formerly known as the Interfaith Hospitality Network) relies on a network of partner faith organizations that provide emergency shelter, an evening and morning meal and activities for children on a rotating, weekly basis. The Road Home also offers its clients intensive, ongoing case management services—because, as their Executive Director, Kristin Rucinski, says, “Housing is just one of the many issues our families are struggling with”—and access to affordable housing through a variety of programs, offered both through The Road Home and in conjunction with other local agencies, such as the YWCA-Madison and The Salvation Army.
The need for The Road Home’s services is very real, and, unfortunately, growing. The Wisconsin State Journal is tackling the issue of homelessness in our community with a special series that started in June and will run in the coming months.
And, as my recent evening with The Road Home showed all too clearly, many of our homeless are families with children like Nicholas, Jasmine and Davon. Kids who deserve more than a cot in a basement room. Kids who are longing for a “forever home,” where there will be a cupboard stocked with art supplies, plenty of room to teleport whenever you want and a place to sit comfortably and argue politics.
How can you help? Educate yourself. Donate to homeless resources if you can. And consider volunteering. You can reach The Road Home at 608-294-7998.
*All names and some identifying information were changed to protect the children’s privacy.