Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Toddler Found in a Philly Park: Tale of Generosity for One Homeless Family

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Toddler Found in a Philly Park: Tale of Generosity for One Homeless Family

Article excerpt

A 2-year old boy, found wandering a Philadelphia park on Friday night, serves as a reminder of the plight of homeless families - as well as the spirit of community support that often emerges when a specific need is known.

According to Brian Jenkins, executive director of Chosen 300, an interdenominational Christian ministry, the little boy, Jeremiah, was found barefoot at Love Park after he wandered from a cardboard box shelter while his father, pregnant mother, and younger sibling slept.

Transit officers found the child and took him to the hospital for treatment. Both children were later taken into protective custody by social services, Mr. Jenkins says in an interview.

"I have known this couple for a while and I've known their children when they have come to our location to have a meal," Jenkins says. "My understanding is that they have been in and out of shelter, but on this particular night they did not have any shelter to go to. They had attempted to go to the Office of Housing for shelter, but there was nothing available."

In many cases across the nation, homeless families fail to report their lack of housing for fear of having their children taken away by social services. The result can be thousands of children sleeping on cardboard boxes in the nooks and crannies of major cities as temperatures plunge.

Jenkins adds that many parents do not ask for help, because "they desperately want to keep their families together. There is always that fear."

"That's a very real issue, parents being afraid to come forward to ask for help," agrees Megan Hustings, interim director for the National Coalition for the Homeless. "We have, unfortunately, seen cases of children being taken away from parents because they are homeless and that's not the solution. We need to help families, not split them up."

Also, when a family says there's "nothing available" at a shelter, that could mean that either no shelter was available, or that the family was trying not to be split up. Men are not allowed into shelters designated for woman and children only, Jenkins explains.

"Whatever happened, they were left out in the cold," Jenkins says. "They used some cardboard boxes to kind of create some barriers and walls and flooring to make things as comfortable as they could for themselves and their children."

According to Jenkins the couple have, a two-year-old, a four- year-old and the mother is seven months pregnant.

But, for this particular homeless family, that cold night in Love Park appears to be a turning point.

The father, Michael Jones, says the publicity around their situation has prompted 55 job offers from around Philadelphia, NBC news reports. He says he's been looking for work for two years. "It's like freaking me out that all the love is being pushed out there," he said. …

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