Please share your stories of offline political activism here.

This past weekend, Springoff the Fifth participated in a Homeless Retreat sponsored by our diocese. I have many disagreements with the Catholic Church, but I applaud and fully support their commitment to caring for the needy. The retreat was designed to instill empathy for the homeless in suburban young adults, and to teach them how to help. I’ve asked her to write about the experience for BPI, but I don’t know if she’ll have time. So I’ll share a bit of what she told us.

The retreat began with a dinner of soup and bread, the typical fare at homeless shelters in our area. They they went to an open field, where they spread tarps to sleep on and under. In the middle of the night they were rousted by cops, in what was probably a staged event. The officers explained that they do not go looking for homeless people to roust, and respond only when private property owners complain. They ensure there is no threat to safety, and direct the homeless to shelters or other facilities. She said the officers discussed their duty, their compassion, and their frustration that they have so few tools to help.

After that, her group slept for what was left of the night. They awoke tired, cold, wet, dirty, and hungry … like those they would soon meet and help feed in one of our area’s tent cities. The statistics are shameful. There are nearly 7,000 homeless in one nearby county alone. Their average age: eight.

That is not a typo.

Most are young women with young children. My daughter met a woman her age – 18 – who bounced from one foster home to another until she fled … at age 13. She lived on the streets for four years. She now has two kids and, finally, a job and a home.

Some of the homeless are mentally ill, the legacy of Reagan-era cuts to state mental health facilities. Others lost jobs and homes in the recession. Some are families clinging together. Others are from families torn apart.

My daughter and her group delivered thousands of cans of food to a local shelter. They met people we too often try to keep invisible, and heard first-hand stories we too rarely include in our civic dialogue. One man told her, “Thank you for listening. You made my week.”

“No,” my daughter replied. “You made mine.”