“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays, ‘Cause no matter how far away you roam; When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly face, for the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home.”
I have had that Robert Allen and Al Stillman song stuck in my head for several days. Perhaps it is because decorating my own home is such a large part of our holiday celebrations. Putting up the outside lights, arranging the Advent Wreath, the stockings and decorating the tree, baking those special treats we reserve for this time of year — it is all about getting our home and our family ready for the holidays.
There is another reason I have been thinking about home lately, however. As I’ve read the articles in this paper and been part of the discussions about the needs that remain unmet in our community, one issue comes up over and over again — the lack of affordable housing. While I know that it takes more than a house to make a home, I also know how incredibly difficult it is to create a home when you are not sure that you will have a house, an apartment, a trailer or any place at all to live.
Fundamentally, homes are created by the relationships in families of origin and families of choice. I have seen women create a home for their children in our emergency shelter in the midst of fear, anxiety and unfamiliar and challenging environments. They have, with the assistance of staff and volunteers and the support of the community, managed to make the holidays fun and meaningful for their families. It is a testament to their courage and their tenacity that even as they flee domestic violence, they continue to create a home for themselves and their children. The lessons learned by children whose mothers flee domestic violence are lessons of courage, safety and hope. Home is created in those lessons and those relationships.
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Relationships need stability and support, however. The challenges of creating a home without a place to live, without housing, are overwhelming. The stability needed for relationships to grow and flourish, between parents and children, between husbands and wives, or life partners, is provided in part by permanent, affordable housing. And a community that does not provide permanent, affordable housing is not doing all that can be done to support healthy families and children — it is not doing what it needs to do to truly be a community. Author Maya Angelou wrote, “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Everyone in our community deserves to have a “safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” The “ache for home” is a universal human longing. We all need a place where we can always return. And we need for those places to be safe, affordable and permanent. We need housing to nurture and support the homes we create. Then there will be “no place like home for the holidays” for all of us.
Anne K. Ard is the executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, 140 W. Nittany Ave., State College. Contact her at 238-7066 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.