Guest blogger: La’Tisha Hensel eloquently gives a child’s perspective of life in a motel room

Providing Shelter for Families At Risk

(Saturday, August 29, 2015)

Part of my journey into writing and blogging recently has included reading through the documentation from Family Services regarding my history. It is a narrative record compiled by various social workers that details the circumstances of several hot line calls and incidents that were reported over a two-year period in my childhood. One striking detail I noticed in many reports was the instability and poor conditions my family lived in during that time. We stayed in the homes of friends, lived in residences without heat, and at times my brother, my dad and I stayed together in one small, dilapidated room of a run-down motel.

I had never really given much thought before to how that instability, that fear over where the next meal would come from or if we would have a place to stay, must have impacted my parents’ choices. I can only imagine that the stress of providing for two small and dependent human beings weighed heavily on my mom and my dad. The added stress could easily have blinded them to the risk of our position. How could there be an expectation of protection for children who did not even have an expectation of provision? The insecurity of our existence made us incredibly vulnerable to the potential for abuse.

This is one of the many reasons why I am so passionate about the work my husband, my church and my community does at River of Refuge.

River of Refuge is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping working poor families get out of pay-by-the-week motels and into stable housing of their own. Throughout the past several years I have personally witnessed the lives of individuals, families and children be changed forever because of the intervention River of Refuge has provided. Where uncertainty and insecurity once placed these hard working families at greater risk, stability and support now help them to grow together in strength. I am humbled, honored and privileged to see these amazing families reach their potential when they receive thoughtful assistance from this organization.

Even though I only stayed there for a short period of time, I have vivid memories of motel-room living with my dad. I remember how loud it was, with so many people constantly coming and going. The television in our room was on and turned up to mask the shouting almost continuously coming from some other room nearby. I remember my dad, normally friendly with absolutely everyone, quickly and protectively pushing us through the door of our room before strangers could approach to make conversation with us. There must not have been a bathtub that was clean or in good working order, because I remember having to wash ourselves in a small, plastic basin in the room. The room was cold, and we didn’t have a good supply of towels or soap or other necessities. Even though at my young age I had no control over the situation I was in, I remember feeling humiliated and embarrassed by those circumstances.

A photo of me around the time we stayed in a motel.







I was incredibly blessed because I had loving, caring extended family who stepped in and provided a different option for me. Many individuals, families and children in our community do not have these resources. In fact, some families spend months or even years stuck, crowded together in one room, lacking access to basic necessities to care for their children. Every child needs a safe place to sleep at night, a place where they will feel at home, safe, secure, sheltered. River of Refuge is working hard to strengthen families and provide that place for children in need in our community. By ensuring stable housing we are removing one more risk factor and lessening vulnerability for these families. Helping a family into long-term, stable housing allows the adults and children in a family to grow, thrive and transform into the people they are called to be.

If you are a part of our local Kansas City metro area community, I hope you will consider joining River of Refuge at their annual Raise the Roof Gala on September 19. This event is an incredible opportunity to learn more about the impact River of Refuge has on families. You will be blessed and humbled to hear stories of how families have transitioned from struggle to security with the help of this organization. You will see what lies ahead for River of Refuge as they move closer to completing a residential space where families will receive support and assistance to get back on their feet with dignity and respect. In addition, you will enjoy an incredible cocktail hour with a silent auction and drawings for amazing prizes like vacation stays, beautiful artwork and event tickets.

The night will also feature dinner and entertainment by comedian Michael Jr., fresh off the comedy circuit and ready to make you laugh! You can find all the details and purchase your tickets to help Raise the Roof for families in need by clicking the link below.


If you do not live in the KC area, you can still help to make a difference in the lives of these families. I know that I would not be where I am today if individuals hadn’t taken action on my behalf. The problems can feel overwhelming, and we don’t always know where to begin. We can start taking action today, partnering with River of Refuge to Raise the Roof and provide shelter and stability for families and children.

Please visit to learn more about this incredible organization and all of the ways you can be involved.

It brings healing to my heart to know that providing education, assistance and stable shelter is changing the memories and rewriting the story for these children and their families, our community and our future. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share this with all of you.

Please see La’Tisha Hensel’s blog and original post here:

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