Writing A Place Called Home was a special blessing for me. Our Lindsay homeless shelter asked me to write a “Good News” story about a child who was homeless. I was thrilled to be asked. After much prayer, and learning about the shelter and its programs, the story began to flow onto the page. I loved young Allyson from the beginning.
Once completed and approved by the shelter’s board, we searched for an artist whose specialty was creating real people, not cartoons. This story speaks to a real-life issue and needed real-life people to tell it. Painting real people with feelings was a specialized talent.
“I’ll check the internet,” I suggested. As I surfed through the websites of professional illustrators I prayed for God’s help. Eventually, I found Jill Quinn Babcock’s amazing gallery of drawings. She had worked with many well-known children’s authors. Would this successful Nova Scotia artist be willing to join our project and share her talents free because of course we had no money to fund our book project?
I sent her an email telling her about our project and our lack of money. Jill answered, “My sister lives in Peterborough and works in Lindsay. I care about the homelessness issue. Send me your story. If I like it, I’ll do it.”
When I sent her my story she liked it. “Yes, I’ll do it,” she emailed back. God had given us a miracle. We had our illustrator. Her paintings for the story are exquisite.
When it came time to lay out the book for a printer, we knew once again that God was a part of this project. The local graphic artist who had done the layout for my previous two books said yes immediately. Again, there was no cost.
All we needed was money for printing. The director found one donor for half the amount and two of my friends gave the rest. Publishing A Place Called Home at no cost means we are able to give all the proceeds from sales to the shelter for programs for the homeless. To date we have raised nearly $10,000.
Because A Place Called Home is also intended for use in schools we have included in the book, a teacher’s guide and suggestions for a handout.
A Place Called Home
I watched our teacher, Mr. Turner, hold up a poster for our Grade Four class.
“Who in this picture is homeless?” he asked.
Stefan, the boy who sits closest to Mr. Turner’s desk, answered first.
“I know. I know,” he said. It’s the man in the patched jeans, sitting on the bench. He’s homeless because his clothes are worn and dirty…and his face is dirty, too. He’s got a garbage bag to hold all his stuff.”
“No, that man’s been working. That’s why he’s wearing old clothes,” interrupted Rachel, the tallest girl in the class. “I think the teenager is the one who is homeless. He looks angry. I’d be angry if I was homeless.”
Tommy, who always has an answer, waved his arm frantically. “No, no, no,” he burst out. “I think the mother and the two small children are the ones who are homeless. She looks sad and tired. Homeless people always look sad and tired.”
Mr. Turner pointed at one of the pictures. “What about this family with the suitcases?” he asked. “The parents are frowning. I think they’re worried. I would be worried if I didn’t have a home.”
Most of the class shook their heads in disagreement. Mr. Turner turned to me.
Don’t ask me, I thought. I hate answering questions. “Why did I have to change schools in April?” I moaned to myself.
“What do you think, Allyson?” he asked.
I stared at the picture for a long time. Finally, I took a deep breath. “They’re all homeless,” I said.
Mr. Turner raised his eyebrows. He was surprised. He smiled kindly. “That’s right. How did you know?”
A lump formed in my throat. My eyes filled with tears. I shrugged my shoulders. “Just a guess,” I mumbled and swallowed hard. One tear slipped down my cheek. I hoped no one would notice.
Mr. Turner told us all about A Place Called Home, where homeless families find shelter and help. The other children asked lots of questions. I kept my head down and stared at my hands. I didn’t want them to know that I lived there. They didn’t know what it was like to have no home. I was glad when the lesson was over.
At lunch time, my new friend, Sarah, asked me, “How did you know that all those people in Mr. Turner’s poster were homeless?”
Can I trust her? Not yet, I thought. I forced myself to smile. “It’s like Mr. Turner said, we don’t often know that a person is homeless. The homeless are regular people, like you and me.”
She frowned. “But…
The bell rang.
“Come on,” I said. “We’ve only a half hour to play.” The two of us shoved our leftovers into our lunch boxes, grabbed our coats and rushed outside.