Deep Roots, Inc. is a new initiative, designed primarily by persons who have themselves experienced homelessness as children. Our program is for children and young people who are currently homeless or otherwise marginalized. We are incorporated in the State of Delaware and have applyied for 501(c)(3) status. Donations are needed and most welcome! At this time, however, donors may not claim a tax deduction, but when are non-profit status is approved all donations will be retroactively approved as deductible for tax purposes.
In January, 2012, a small group of adults, whose childhoods have been disastrously affected by homelessness, met to organize a new partnership with children and young people and their families who are currently or recently homeless. The project’s purpose is to mentor relationships and community with these children to nurture the spiritual, emotional, and material means to a fulfilling life. Teaching and reminding each other that through right relationships, and the strength of our community, we can not only achieve personal success, but help to build neighborhood in a world growing poorer indeed for the lack of it.
Neighborhood is the realization that we are all one. Ending poverty and homelessness is not accomplished simply by social activism, but in the building of relationships and in genuine human meeting — beyond and across barriers of race, social class, and religion. Neighborhood enriches ourselves, all others, and the lives of all our children; it lays the foundation for the kind of gentle and peaceable world we long for: one in which the violence of poverty and homelessness have no more place.
Ending homelessness for children is not just about meals and shelter. The fallout of this crippling experience for children results in a deprivation of the means to a successful and fulfilling life, and leads to continuing homelessness as adults, a spiral of homelessness across generations. One of the leading advocates for homeless youth is Kristine Cunningham, Executive Director of “Roots,” a shelter for minors in Seattle, one of the pioneering young adult shelters in the country. She describes homelessness as a self-perpetuating problem when it comes to children: “Children born to homeless mothers, or who experience multiple episodes of housing instability – couch surfing, staying in motels, or shuttling between households when they are young – often mirror that in their own adulthoods. Homelessness begets homelessness. People who don’t grow up with stable homes don’t develop many of the coping strategies that let them transition into stable home lives as adults. Some lack practical life skills as well. Many don’t drive because the state restricts foster parents from teaching them. Many don’t have conflict-resolution skills that it takes to survive in a workplace.”
Further, in the United States, and especially in more rural areas such as downstate Delaware, Cecil County, and the Maryland’s eastern shore, homelessness among families with children is growing into a problem of epic proportions. According the a recent study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in Washington, D.C., children under the age of 18 account for 39% of the homeless population; 42% of these children are under the age of five. Moreover, this same study found that especially in rural areas, the numbers of children experiencing homelessness is much higher than in cities.
We affirm the absolute need of a spiritual focus in empowering these children and young people. Such things as restoring confidence in themselves and in the world as a place in which they can be successful and fulfilled, identifying and addressing neglected educational and cultural skills, offering encouragement and a helping hand in completing high school and being able to move on to college, are just a few among many of the spiritually-based resources which Deep Roots seeks to offer as enrichment for their lives. Deep Roots is a project, not just of teaching others how to fish, but of making the pond itself accessible for them—opening the gates of possibility and potential. The intent of the project is to draw children into a vibrant, ongoing community of persons with varied experiences:
1) Successful and motivated adults who themselves were homeless as children. These persons are at the heart of this project as role models and mentors who can speak with great authority to children—offering the clear message that, in spite of their current circumstances, there is hope, and “here is how we found it for ourselves.”
2) Trained volunteers who are ongoing mentors, who will partner with children and their families in tangible ways to end the residual powerlessness which homelessness creates in children.
3) Being part of a community of other children and young people who are or have been homeless to give them an opportunity, in a structured and friendly learning environment, to interact and befriend each other: human peer community being the most powerful of means to ending poverty in a person’s life.
What we have done thus far:
1. We have developed a committed Board (members listed below) and Incorporated in the state of Delaware (March 19, 2012). We are currently applying for 501(c)(3) status.
2. We held four events during the summer, and on in the works for fall, all well attended, averaging 20 – 25 young people per event in addition to parents and volunteers. The events were as follows:
June 17: A Day at Turner’s Creek State Park in Kent County, Maryland in partnership with former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest. It was a program of environmental education, hiking, canoeing, and a picnic. The focus of the program was to give the young people a sense of their importance in the world in better understanding how we are interdependent with the environment, how we fit in to the cultural history of where we live, and our role as “stewards” of planet Earth and the human community.
July14: A learning-excursion to Ocean City Maryland for the day. The young people, some of whom had never seen the ocean before, went on the beach, swimming, and got wristbands to go on rides. The day ended with a “picnic” of pizza and French fries on the boardwalk! Our objective was to broaden their horizons to foresee a hopeful future in such things as envisioning the possibility of summer employment, and for them to just experience a time of being young, and how young people, through summer jobs, begin to create an independent life for themselves. The need for this particular excursion grew out of the importance our formerly homeless children on the board placed on such things, as they struggled to distance themselves from a life of chaos.
August 12: A day trip to participate in a family “Renaissance Fair” near Bel Air, Maryland. It was an opportunity for families to be together with other families having fun in a day which included games, crafts, archery, and a picnic.
August 19: Just before school began we had a day “camp” at Grove Point Camp in Earleville, Maryland. Our objective was a time of fellowship, relationship building, and fun before returning to school. The program included swimming in their Olympic sized pool, kayaking and waterfront games, hiking, a fossil hunt, and a campfire with hotdogs and “s’mores.”
October 20: Our fall program began with a Halloween carnival day at in Oxford, Pennsylvania designed to keep participants in the summer program involved ongoing. Over 60 young people gathered for moon bounce, cotton candy, games, a scarecrow making contest, and costumes for everyone.
December 15: Our Christmas gathering was held again at Grove Point Camp in Earleville. The young people made centerpieces and wreaths to take home and also same exceptional holiday cookies! Volunteers had gathered food, including hams and turkeys and a huge donation of snacks and cookies from Herrs to make huge Christmas Dinner Boxes for the families who have been in the program this year.
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Mission Statement: Deep Roots works with children, who are disconnected through homelessness or other similar marginalization: connecting hearts. Our program will challenge children to envision a brighter future, to sustain healthy relationships and to navigate a course towards personal and social responsibility through better life experiences, with mentors, providing healthy life-models for relationships.
1) Provide field trips for experiences that may otherwise not be had.
2) Become another friend/adult mentor to the children, for another safe place to reach
out to when navigating their lives.
3) Have volunteer families, who help chaperone our field trips and activities, become mentor families as relationships are made comfortably and connections are found from things in common, a child the same age with similar interests.
4) Stay in contact with the family and the child(ren).
5) To provide as many privileges as we can, specialized to each child, school and extracurricular.
6) To keep a snapfish account of pictures for the child/family to be able to access freely.
7) To be part of sharing good experiences and modeling different styles of life that may help a person break the cycles of poverty and homelessness.
8) Volunteers will have background checks as that is our best way to protect the children from further traumatizing experiences.
9) Lift spirits, share commitment, become community. Help the children build self-esteem, confidence and trust.
11) It takes a community to raise a child well.
2012 -2013 Board of Directors:
D. Carl Mazza, President
Tracey McCaw, Recorder
Laurie M. Smith, Treasurer