Except during the Great Depression, women and children have never been on our nation’s streets in significant numbers. During the 1980’s, cutbacks in benefits coupled with rapidly increasing rents and a dearth of low-income housing jeopardized the stability of all people with reduced or fixed incomes. At the same time, the number of female-headed households dramatically increased.
As a result, the nation’s population of homeless families swelled from almost negligible numbers to nearly 40% of the overall homeless population today. The United States is unique among industrialized nations in that women and children comprise such a large percentage of our country’s homeless.
— The National Center on Family Homelessness
On Tuesday evening, there was an inspiring story on ABC World News about Dayna Camp, a dance teacher and avid amateur photographer from New York City. According to the report, one day Dayna was thinking about how she loves “photographing my family and keeping those memories and moments alive. But even the simple things — my son and his dad sitting around and playing with the blocks. I’m like, ‘You guys are so cute, let me take a picture…'”
But then Dayna realized that, for homeless families, basic survival is such a daily struggle, they might never have the chance to save those precious memories of their young children, nor any family pictures at all. So, she decided to do something.
With the assistance of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, she organized a photo shoot in Central Park for families living in shelters. She even put together a bake sale to cover the cost of printing and framing.
ABC reports, “She gathered families — mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters — whose sense of normalcy had been upended, and brought them together for family portraits and a chance to feel special.
“‘It’s wonderful, so when they grow up they can see us together… see themselves, when they were little,” said Josephine Bubb, mother who took part in the shoot.
“‘It means a lot to me to have this moment, this day with my children and grandchildren,’ said Shawaun Laffette, a grandmother.”
Dayna told ABC News, “Some of the families said today that this was the first photo that they had of all of them together. You know, they can just look at that photo and say, ‘This is our family, this is what our strength is…”
What hobby, talent, or interest do you enjoy that you might be able to turn into a gift for others in this world? What things, small or big, do you take for granted that might actually be a treasure if shared with someone in need?
In the days ahead, many people will be celebrating the birth of a poor child, who was also homeless. And many of us will be honoring the coming rebirth of the light.
Be that light.