I’ve been working on something new, and I’m thrilled that our church gets to be a part of it. We’ve highlighted the work of Jump 4 Joy in the past. This community fundraiser gives the Office of Family Support Services at HEB ISD access to funds to provide emergency assistance to families of homeless children and youth. This year, Jump 4 Joy has formalized into an official 501c(3), and this puts them in a much better position to achieve their goals of serving an at-risk population in our neighborhood.
Our church’s relationship with Jump 4 Joy began a few years ago through the Good Neighbor Experiment. We had a small group dedicated to learning more about our community and the great things that were happening in our corner of Tarrant County. This led to a group of our folks volunteering at the Jump 4 Joy fundraiser which led to some of our members serving on the task force. With a strong desire to reach further into the community, those of us on the task force believed that becoming a nonprofit would allow businesses and other organizations to formally support this effort.
Currently HEB ISD identifies more than 800 of its students as homeless using a definition that includes:
- Families living in shelters, in cars or on the streets
- Families living daily or weekly in motels (many of them on Hwy. 10)
- Multiple families living in a home intended for a single family
- Children and teens that are couch surfing or living with someone who is not a blood relative or legal guardian
Each of these situations inhibits a child’s ability to receive an education which continues the cycle of poverty to the next generation. You may have noticed from the examples above that homelessness looks quite different in this community compared to others. It’s easy to picture the chronically homeless man or woman living on the streets with a sign asking for help, but most of these families have parents working one or more jobs to make ends meet. It’s a difference highlighted by the gap between the federal poverty line and the actual cost of living.
For a family of 4, the federal poverty line is at or below $26,500 of annual household income. This applies to about 12% of the population in our area. On the other hand, United Way undertakes an in-depth study of the actual costs of living in a particular community. In our community, for a family of four, the actual household survival budget comes in at $64,512. That includes all the things a family needs to survive in our community: housing, food, transportation, health care, child care, and essential technology (a phone). That’s an hourly rate of $16 an hour (if there are two wage-earners in the home).
In our community as many as 37% of households fall below this survival budget threshold. This means that parents with full-time jobs may be earning enough for rent, or food, or childcare, but likely can’t afford all the things they need to survive. More importantly, when unexpected costs throw off the monthly budget, it puts the other commitments in jeopardy. Side note: You should try the Tough Choices Simulator here to learn more: http://texas.makingtoughchoices.org/
This is why homelessness looks very different in our community compared to what we might expect. Sure there are some chronically homeless people living here, but also we have these 800+ kids and their families who are housing burdened who have to make difficult decisions about where to live in order to afford what they need.
This is a gap that Jump 4 Joy wants to help bridge. By providing limited emergency assistance to families that need it, kids are able to stay in school, they keep learning, and they don’t fall behind. It’s an investment in that child and their future. I’m proud that our church serves as one of Jump 4 Joy’s Pillar churches. It’s a sacred partnership that adds a boon to our Adopt-A-School relationships and contributes to the overall support network in our community. It’s one of the many ways that our church continues to make a difference in our community. More information about Jump 4 Joy is coming soon!