Shelter from the Cold

By Christa

I think I’m going to get about $1,000 back as a tax refund this year. And I’m really, really excited about it.

Not because of what I’m going to buy, although $1,000 could buy some good things. It’s not a million dollars, but it’s not a small amount either, for me.

And not because I need it to cover my spending – I made a decision this year not to include my tax refund in my annual budget. It meant shifting expenses around a bit and thinking about spending cuts elsewhere. But it also meant that I would receive an additional sum of money this year that I could freely give away without fear.

There is something incredibly joyful about planning for giving. I have other donations written into my monthly budget—to my church, to friends doing good things across the country, to various organizations—but giving away my tax refund is a new thing for me. Once I made the mental shift from “$1,000 for me!” to “$1,000 for others!” my mind moved quickly to where the money should go.

As Elizabeth did in her last post, I’m highlighting a local, national, and international organization focused on lifting up some of the most vulnerable. The groups I mention today are all working against homelessness, a struggle that has been at the front of my mind lately given recent events in the city of Boston and the snow forcing many off the streets.

Local: In October of 2014, Massachusetts State inspectors condemned a vehicular bridge linking Long Island, one of Boston’s Harbor Islands, to the rest of the city. The bridge was certainly a safety issue, but its closure had more serious implications – Long Island housed one of Boston’s largest homeless shelters and it would become inaccessible for 700 homeless people. In response, religious leaders in Boston organized Boston Warm, a partnership with the City Mission Society of Boston to open new shelters and continue to provide services to the displaced Long Island refugees. Boston Warm now has two shelters—one in the Old South Church in Copley Square, and one at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street—that will be open until April. Money and Volunteers are needed! In fact, for $43 you can buy lockers for shelter residents that will hold belongings so those using the shelter will not have to carry their possessions with them from place to place.

Boston Warm is where my tax refund money is going – actually, I’m going to give there before I do my taxes because donations are needed right now! Anyone want to join me?

National: I want to give toward the direct needs of the homeless, but I also want to consider the structural conditions that contribute to homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness is focused on policy responses for homeless families, veterans, youth, and the chronic homeless at the local and national levels. Their research arm is particularly valuable – the homeless population is difficult to monitor given their transience but effective programs are hard to implement without accurate data. You can give to them here.

Global: Obviously homelessness is not confined to the U.S – my thoughts go to the more than 50 million people displaced by natural disasters and war living in refugee camps. The war in Syria has added at least 6 million to this number, and surrounding countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan are past their capacity to manage the influx of migrants. A lot of large organizations are responding to the great needs of refugees, but one I particularly appreciate (and financially support) is the Mennonite Central Committee. MCC combines relief efforts with advocacy for peace and conflict resolution. I find their work and mission to be particularly in line with God’s call for transformative justice through relationships. Here’s MCC’s donation page.

Are you giving away your tax refund? What recommendations do you have for organizations to support? Let us know in our Facebook comments!

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