Archive for Monday, December 22, 2008


Opening new doors: Homeless advocate learned to care at early age

December 22, 2008


Valerie Miller-Coleman is director of Family Promise, a local social service agency helping homeless families. Miller-Coleman works with families at a new day shelter in a house on Tennessee Street.

Valerie Miller-Coleman is director of Family Promise, a local social service agency helping homeless families. Miller-Coleman works with families at a new day shelter in a house on Tennessee Street.

As millions of Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of the world’s most famous homeless child, it’s an opportunity to turn our thoughts toward Lawrence’s homeless children and one of their advocates, Valerie Miller-Coleman.

Homeless children here?

Surely not, you say.

“On any given day, there can be over 100 homeless children, most under 7 years old,” says Miller-Coleman, 28, recently appointed director of the local chapter of Family Promise.

The national organization provides support for homeless families as they transition into permanent housing.

“You’ll see homeless children and families at grocery stores, schools and walking around town, but you won’t recognize them,” Miller-Coleman says.

She says it’s easy for low-income families to become homeless due to unexpected job loss or illness.

Miller-Coleman is excited about her new role. It’s a natural fit for the gifts, beliefs and passions she’s developed since her childhood in Des Moines, Iowa. She says her church, United Church of Christ, has a motto: “Agree to differ, resolve to love, unite to serve.” And it expects members to practice it.

Her father, David, a mechanical engineer, and mother, Marilyn, a business owner and linguist, live by this motto and encouraged their daughter to work for justice for all people.

“This inherited passion for social justice led me to focus my studies on the intersection of social justice action and faith practices,” Miller-Coleman says. “After traveling for a year studying these connections in faith communities around the world in places like India, Mexico and Guatemala, I realized that rather than simply study the justice movements and their faith leaders, I might be able to become a faith leader myself.”

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., in 2002, taught literacy courses for at-risk youths at Des Moines Area Community College and then worked with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Birmingham, Ala.

She was case manager in a 32-bed drug treatment center serving low-income and homeless clients.

In 2004, she pursued a Master of Divinity degree at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, interned as a hospice chaplain and served as a community outreach minister at a Nashville United Methodist church.

“I delighted in this position. The congregation had enormous heart, served a low-income neighborhood, and half of its members were homeless folks,” Miller-Coleman explains.

“My duties consisted in developing grass-roots leadership. ... I could have stayed there forever, but I fell in love with a Kansan, married, and we moved to Lawrence in 2007 to be near both of our families.”

Her husband, Benjamin, is a doctoral student at Kansas University’s School of Law.

When Miller-Coleman searched the local classifieds, she didn’t hold out much hope of getting a job to match her passions.

She was wrong. She responded to an ad for a homeless outreach worker at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center and got it.

Miller-Coleman volunteered with the Lawrence Family Promise initiative before being appointed its first director.

“We work intensively with four homeless families at a time in a house on Tennessee Street provided by Ninth Street Baptist Church, and at day shelters provided by local churches on a rotational basis,” she explains.

“Our aim is to move families into permanent housing within two months. With ongoing community, church and local landlords’ support, we’ll keep working to ensure every homeless child in Lawrence gets a permanent home.”


geekin_topekan 9 years, 3 months ago

Jesus' was not a homeless child.His folks were on their way to pay their taxes and stopped at a motel to pay for a room but had to sleep in the barn because there were no rooms available.They would have pressed on but she was way-pregnant and they ran out of options.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 9 years, 2 months ago

Here's one for you Confrontation:Q: What is the name of the "other" girl who got pregnant even though she claimed to have never lost her virginity?A: A trick question. Millions of girls have made that claim, telling dad that they never "did it" in spite of their bulging belly. For some reason this story "lasted" and billions have believed in it. I wonder: What is the power of this story, that makes it so believable to so many? What is it about this woman and her so-called "bastard" son that has made so many people believe that she didn't just get knocked-up like all the rest?

jumpin_catfish 9 years, 2 months ago

Lighten up OldEnuf2BYurDad! What's all that anger about, I suggest some mental health counseling. With that said: God Bless Valerie, I'm sure most folks in Lawrence wish you well as you do the Lord's work.

mom_of_three 9 years, 2 months ago

Back to the article...It's nice to hear there is help for homeless families.

flux 9 years, 2 months ago

Valerie is kinda doing it for me tonight....

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like Valerie is more than doing it for a lot of folks, this cold, winter night.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 2 months ago

As a Catholic Christian I am deeply offended by these comments, though unlike a Muslim, there is nothing I can do about it. My faith is very real and very precious to me. I do not appreciate the ridicule. I believe with all my being that Mary was virgin when she gave birth and remained so forever, that her son was the son of God, died on the cross, descended into hell, and on the third day ascended into heaven. Now I am not going to stay awake tonight worrying if others have a different belief. I won't make fun of what you believe and you don't make fun of my church. That's all I'm asking.

Confrontation 9 years, 2 months ago

Keep on believing it, Cleo. Some of us aren't falling for it, and we don't care if it hurts your feelings. Is your belief not strong enough to handle criticism? By the way, it's a little harder to make fun of those of us who don't believe in your book of fiction.

justforfun 9 years, 2 months ago

Cleopatra. I hate to be the one to tell ya, but these blogs are not for the weak at heart or those that take certain things too serious. Trust me it will get more ruthless before it gets better. I mean I have already today been called a dork and an idiot (probably deserved it), but hey it's all fun. By the way thanks Flux and Confrontation!

leadstone 9 years, 2 months ago

Virgin Mary....sure. and I suppose brides wear white to signify their " purity " some....maybe,but not most. How many days travel did 'ol Joe have to trek to make ends meet? And how many comers did the so called " virgin " take in to make sure they surely did?? Something is certainly " fishy " about this tale. I got lots more if you're willing to hear your fantasies collapse. I am a member of Associated Agnostics....a different kind of AA. Ohh yeah Valerie is doing right by her beliefs and is quite possibly having a great effect. Good luck to her. Don't get me wrong, religion can be good, the global economy and lifestyles depend on it, but there are so many holes in the Bible cheeses run away with their tails' between their legs. Remember that people KILLED for Christianity too.......more to surely follow. Dont like?? Don't read! Happy Xmas all around.

jumpin_catfish 9 years, 2 months ago

I agree that this blog is not for the faint of heart and I don't think myself as so but some of you folks are hateful, mean and frankly more uncivilized then those you criticize. I won't waste my time here anymore. This is the straw.

twinetowngirl 9 years, 2 months ago

Everyone has their own right to believe what they believe, right or wrong. I for one am with Cleo. What you others choose to believe is your decision and ultimatly your choice in life now and after. But I am not here to ridicule you or judge you, just as you can not judge me. (I'm sure you'll try) I don't believe in the Muslim religion, the pagen religion, or any other religion except my own,, but I am not out bashing each their own....This article is not even about that... Thank you Valerie for being the kind soul to help these people that so many others "overlook" GOD help any of you that may need her help someday...for some it's just a paycheck away!

Strontius 9 years, 2 months ago

"Actually, they had to report to Joseph's ancestral home town for a census. "Actually, recent scholarship says the census you're referencing didn't happen at the time the Bible says it did. But that's kind of besides the point for reasons not worth discussing here.

InspectorJo 9 years, 2 months ago

Best Wishes Valerie, you seem to have the passion and Love to acomplish anything!

jhwk2008 9 years, 2 months ago

none2 (Anonymous) says… "Actually, they had to report to Joseph's ancestral home town for a census. Since Joseph was a descendant of David that home town was Bethlehem."Right, King David lived ~1037 - 967 BC. Doesn't it seem kind of ridiculous that one would have to report to the home town of an ancestor who lived over 900 years before him? Would you ever report to Europe for a census?Why can't rational thought apply to religion?

jhwk2008 9 years, 2 months ago

I guess I'll rephrase my comment: Why can't those who are religious think rationally. "If I was only 70 miles from some ancestral family location, I might just as go."One, it was more like 90 - 120 miles depending on their route. Two, now there are cars and paved roads. And wasn't Mary 9 months pregnant? What, she rode on a donkey the entire way? Does that seem like a good idea to you? Also, you "might just as go"? See how that doesn't fit with your story?Moreover, why would Mary even need to go? Women were barely above the level of slaves.Furthermore, as Strontius points out, there wasn't a census in the last decade BCE.I can keep going, but I won't. Think man, think.

Amy Bartle 9 years, 2 months ago

Does anyone know the phone number to the local Family Promise organization to find out what sort of donations they need? If so, please post it. thanks

Jessie Stoltenow 9 years, 2 months ago

FIrst of all, I want to thank Valerie for all she is doing. This community really needs someone like her. I do what I can in helping homeless and the needy, but it's so good to know that they are being well taken care of. As for everyone else that has posted, this article is not about the birth of Christ! If you think that, re-read it. This girl has come to our community and is doing a wonderful thing for these families. You don't have to support it, but don't bash it or make fun of it.

Confrontation 9 years, 2 months ago

Are you talking about Hitler, invictus? Oh, I guess he can be discredited.

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