Cutlines: A child enters a community of cardboard homes built by the Atascocita Youth Group. Josh Worthington explains how he lost his cardboard home due to an unexpected earthquake. Photos by Annie Harmon Nine years is the average age of homelessness in America today, according to Carole Brady, the executive director of Family Promise of Lake Houston. In Humble ISD, we have more than 970 registered homeless kids, said Brady. Those are just the ones who are registered. There are children who will never register as homeless due to fears of the family being separated or from old concepts that are no longer in existence. But they dont know that, so they wont reach out for the help. Homelessness affects kids, and thats what this awareness is about, Brady said. Family Promise of Lake Houston, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Americas homeless families secure lasting independence, ran their sixth annual Cardboard City on Sunday, Oct. 13. Children were registered from churches and youth groups. This year, through Leadership Lake Houston, Brady met with the directors from the IB program and agreed that the high schools should be invited. We do have a lot of children who are homeless who are in our school system. Of course, their friends arent going to know that theyre going through this, said Brady. The whole point is to raise awareness through this generation, so this generation has a heart for stepping out of their comfort zone and knowing what it feels like from [the homeless] point of view. Raising that awareness gives that next generation the opportunity to make a difference and do something. Although many groups have been formally invited, Brady says the annual event is open to any type of group who wants to bring their youth, build a cardboard city and spend the night outside to build awareness. Although this year the rain forced the group indoors for the safety of the youth, the schedule of educational activities was still in effect. The children lined up at the soup kitchen, then sat on the ground to eat in small circles. After dinner they proceeded to the city for a judging of the individual or group cardboard homes they had built. From there the evening was filled with games where they answered questions or found items related to homelessness. Josh Worthington, a senior at Humble High and the student leader organizing the Cardboard City, says he did a lot of research on homelessness and was surprised by his discoveries. We made it more about how many high school students are actually homeless and how many you interact with every day and that was kind of a shocker to me because I didnt realize how many of our own students in our own high school are actually homeless. That changed my mindset, said Worthington. During his research, Worthington discovered people he personally knew at his school had been homeless. Without this program, I would never have known that people I interact with every day are homeless, Worthington said. And now I know how much it affects them. I got to talking about it with them because I wanted to learn more for this event. It was really interesting just to hear their stories. For the younger children, awareness was secured from their experience in the cardboard city. Lily Sanders, a youth who participated last year stated, I took away from this that its really hard to sleep on the floor. And it was really cold that night [last year] so we were freezing. Youth participant Maddie Ellis felt the event made her more appreciative of the privileges she has. I learned that homeless people dont have the advantages that we do, so we better stop taking the stuff we have for granted, and be happy were not sleeping in a box every night. In her experience, Brady says homelessness is often caused by something really simple. Like a single mom with two kids, and shes working two jobs and her kiddos get sick and she doesnt have a backup babysitting plan. It only takes three days of missing work from a second job for the income level to go down enough to start the process of eviction - the thread holding it together is so thin. It could be something as simple as the breakup of a relationship or paying rent, and then the person who owns that property not paying their mortgage. Most of the families who become homeless have never been homeless before, and most of them are working. There are a lot different scenarios that you never really think of. Worthington, who also donates his time helping the homeless through Radical Ministries, agrees. Homelessness is a real issue. Its not always what people think. There are a lot of stereotypes out there, but its just everyday people with problems and we can help them. We can all contribute a little bit and help, he said. For more information, contact Brady at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 281-441-3754.

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