My cousin Ellen began feeding and reuniting homeless young people with their families after she picked her son up from jail.
Max was living on the streets at the time, and the police had taken him to jail for a petty offense. Like many homeless young people, Max struggles with addiction.
As she picked him up from jail after his release, my cousin noticed that he was carrying a large garbage bag and nothing else.
Raining peanut butter sandwiches
When she asked about the bag, Max told her that while he was in jail, the other inmates began tossing peanut butter sandwiches in his cell because he was so thin. “I looked up and it was raining sandwiches in my cell,” he said.
When he was released, he didn’t want to leave the sandwiches behind, so he brought them with him. Max asked her to drive to the park nearby so he could share the sandwiches with the homeless people there.
As a result, my cousin founded Textwich, an organization made up of mothers of missing and homeless children. Many of the homeless young people that my cousin encounters on the streets have left or have been released from drug rehab. Often, they have lost contact with their families and are the most vulnerable when it comes to human trafficking.
More to learn about human trafficking
According to The Polaris Project website, a lack of safe housing is a leading risk factor for sex trafficking. Until my cousin shared this with me, I thought that I understood the issue of human trafficking. But there was a lot that I didn’t know.
As staff, I worked in the Women of the ELCA exhibit about human trafficking at the 2015 Youth Gathering in Detroit. Now, as we prepare for our next exhibit in Houston this summer, we will tell these stories about what prevention could look like and how to engage the youth in helping to end human trafficking.
We need your help. We would like to support local human trafficking organizations with hygiene items that they can share with victims of trafficking and homeless youth. We are collecting donations to help us with our goal.
A hygiene kit will not end human trafficking, but hopefully sharing awareness and encouraging action can.
As my cousin says, “every person on the street is somebody’s somebody.”
Elizabeth McBride is the director for intergenerational programs and editor of Cafe e-magazine. Photo of young people at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit filling hygiene kits.