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video: McGovern Speaks on Overnight Stay at Homeless Shelter

Monday, February 29, 2016

 

Congressman Jim McGovern spoke on the House floor on Friday about his recent overnight stay at the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) of Greater Worcester, a local homeless shelter. 

"I spent the night at the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a family homeless shelter in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear firsthand the stories of families who are facing tough times and to see the incredible support provided by groups like IHN," McGovern said. 

This was McGovern's second time staying at the shelter as part of his ongoing efforts to raise awareness about homelessness and increase support for efforts to reduce it in Massachusetts and across the country. 

"In today’s media environment where every development in the presidential campaign gets a breaking news banner, it’s easy to lose sight of the real issues impacting real families and homelessness is one of them. In 2015, more than 500,000 Americans were homeless on any given night. Of that number, more than 200,000 were people in families and nearly 50,000 were veterans.

Even in Massachusetts, one of the richest states in the nation, homelessness continues to be a challenge in many of our communities. In recent years, state budget cuts have led to a record number of homeless children in Massachusetts and the overall uptick in homelessness has led to overcrowding in shelters with thousands of families being turned away," McGovern said. 

Interfaith Hospitality Network

McGovern went on to talk about the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Worcester. 

“IHN works in partnership with the faith community to provide shelter and assistance to families with children who are homeless. Their primary goals are to assist families in increasing their income and to help them secure permanent housing, while providing the critical support services necessary for them to succeed.

It’s a ‘community bed shelter’ that provides private bedrooms and shared living areas for six families at a time who are homeless but don’t qualify for state-funded shelters," McGovern said of the shelter," said McGovern. 

“The families at IHN are not charged rent and work with a caseworker to budget and save money for their own apartments. The caseworker also helps families access necessary health care or counseling, learn job skills, enroll in job training or educational classes, and assists them with other life issues.

“IHN is a very special place. It’s a home. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. Families prepare and eat dinner together. Children do their homework together, color in coloring books, and play games. IHN provides a sense of normalcy during times of turmoil and uncertainty for families," added McGovern.

Takeaways From the Overnight Stay

McGovern talked to many families and residents of the shelter while he was there and discussed the things that he learned. 

“One of the points that the people I met made very eloquently was that sometimes life is very complicated and sometimes things don’t work out as you expect them to.

Many of the families that I met during my stay included at least one working parent. But they had fallen into the gap where they earned too little to make ends meet but too much to qualify for other housing assistance programs.

Some of the residents included college-educated parents with families that fell on hard times - maybe a parent is sick or a child’s sick, or a parent got laid off from a job. Those families are not there because they made poor choices; there were a series of events that led to this. One thing parents at the shelter have in common is that they love their kids more than anything and are working tirelessly to get back on their feet," McGovern said. 

How to End Homelessness 

McGovern explained ways to help end homelessness in Massachusetts and across the country. 

“To help more of these families get ahead, we must do more at the national level to strengthen the social safety net to better address homelessness, food insecurity, and poverty and many other issues which deserve to be front and center.

Looking at the big picture, we need to be talking about how we can make sure that work pays enough so that all working families can afford rent and place to live, and be able to put food on the table for their kids. We might start by increasing, at long last, the federal minimum wage so that it’s a livable wage. If you work in this country, you ought not to be poor and you ought certainly not to be homeless."

McGovern concluded, "We need to do a better job of listening to their stories and lending a helping hand so they can get out of their difficult situations and move on to a better life.

I urge my colleagues to listen what I said today and do what I did and spend a night at a homeless shelter in their district.”

 

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