By Reginald Williams,
Special at AFRO

The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that over half a million people are persistently homeless in America. According to the Washington, DC-based organization, about 70% are single. The remaining 100,000 are dominated by families with children. But in 2019, the US Department of Education estimated there were 1.6 million precariously housed students.

Pat LaMarche, a longtime homeless advocate, believes there are more people without adequate housing.

“I think there are 10 to 12 million homeless people in the United States – the official numbers are half a million,” LaMarche explained. “There are huge numbers of people flipping burgers, waiting for you, taking your order, driving an Uber. They don’t just drive Uber, they live in it.

Homelessness, defined as being without adequate residence, comes with a myriad of social problems, including limited access to food, finding a safe place to sleep, and dealing with atmospheric conditions like freezing weather.

LaMarche amplifies awareness of the devastation of homelessness and responds to it with the Homeless Memorial Blanket Project. LaMarche, the project organizer, estimates that between 500 and 1,000 blankets, handmade quilted blankets sewn by strangers for strangers, will be donated.

“I’ve always tried to take another bite of the apple by finding ways to make people care or helping them understand that there’s something they can do,” said LaMarche.

On December 21 (the longest night of the year), the Homeless Memorial Blanket Project, in conjunction with Reformed Lutheran Church Operations, will place these blankets, each depicting families, on the West Lawn of the US Capitol, arguably the most influential building in the world.

“Our congregation is thrilled to partner with the #MemorialBlanket project,” said Jarrod Jabre, director of operations at Reformed Lutheran Church. “By faith in Christ, we are bold to proclaim that ‘All are welcome.’ Offering space and availability to artisans who create blankets for those without a home is a great fit for us.

The day after the event, Jabre said, organizers will begin distributing blankets to individuals and families in need.

Organizers are inviting blanket makers to drop off their designs at the Reformed Lutheran Church, 212 East Capitol Street, NE in Washington, D.C. They can do so Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., now through December 20. The church will store the blankets until the event.

Blanket dimensions, 45″ x 80″ and 60″ x 80″, vary by fabric, fiber, and color.

“Most of the blankets are family sized, representing the fact that there are homeless families,” LaMarche explained..

The project has participants in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Volunteers in each state are encouraged to make at least 100 blankets, provide ten for display on the Capitol lawn, and donate another 90 or more to outreach programs in their area.

The birth of the cover project took place in 2021 after LaMarche spoke at the graduation for people experiencing poverty. A woman with intellectually different abilities approached LaMarche, author of Left Out in America: The State of Homeless in the United States, sharing her desire to help with homelessness. “I would really love to crochet all day, but no one would pay me to do it.” LaMarche replied, “We can’t pay you to do it, but surely we can give you a purpose for doing it.”

Responding to the woman’s call, LaMarche reached out to her network and said, “I want to put blankets in the town square. I want them to represent people living in homelessness. And I wanna do it on the longest night of the year [Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice], for Homeless Memorial Night. For this inaugural year, 219 foreigners donated blankets.Reginald Williams is the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized”. Please email [email protected] or visit amarginalizedvoice.com for more information.

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