We begin a more hopeful year by highlighting one of our most helpful and long-lasting outreach efforts, The United Churches Emergency Fund. We are encouraged these days by the myriad folks working to respond to the homeless among us. To those many churches and other religious organizations, non-profits and a host of motivated individuals, we say, “Well Done.” UCUCC’s primary efforts have centered on providing a place for tent cities and monetary assistance and office space for UCEF.
This ministry began in the U District when a handful of congregations started working on common concerns, For 35 years we have been giving small gifts that assist in the payment of rent and utility bills and thus keep people housed. As UCEF counselors listen to personal stories, it could not be clearer that its work is a Godsend to so many who are not , or at least not yet, statistics.
UCEF’s role is crystal clear: to work on preventing homelessness in the first place. With a $150-$200 gift to UCEF we can help a person keep his or her housing for another month or more, and to find the space during that time to line up a new job or other additional resources to stay housed. Without such assistance, that same person may become one of those thousands who are homeless. When an person loses their housing, it delivers a heavy personal and family blow, even to the point of putting that person’s life in danger. It also costs society $30,000 a year in public funds for every person who becomes homeless. So…you do the math: a $150-$200 gift to a person or family vs. a $30,000 social cost…including the damage done to the person and family. This is, indeed, a personal and social tragedy we are facing.
UCEF observes its thirty-fith year by simply carrying on, person by person, to offer a listening ear, the time and space to hear the story – to offer our neighbors in crisis the chance to experience a warm and accepting human being sitting across from them — who then can help with the right referrals, with bus tickets to get to another spot, with snack packs and hygiene kits, and funds to keep the roof they have. Last year UCEF counted around 350 visits – all remote — representing over 500 people, including 80 children. During the pandemic, requests for assistance have risen nearly 50%.
We know our efforts can feel like a drop in the bucket of what’s needed. We would like to do more, we would like to make our gifts more generous, and we would like to serve more zip codes than the four we have now. But we can promise you that whatever gift you give to UCEF will be put to very good use. The stories of thousands of people helped since 1986 are testimonies to what can be achieved when we work together.