The first thing you have to understand about homelessness is that it is a series of losses – because homelessness is a process. Maybe you lost your job. And then you lost your partner and your kids. Then you start to lose your friends, and then your house. You stay with friends, which burns out the friends you have left, and then you end up sleeping in the shelter or in your car. You are now homeless, which means you have difficulty in our society finding a place to use the bathroom.
The clothes you wear aren’t the clothes you pick out, but the ones someone else decided to donate. The food you eat is the food someone else decided to give you. Bit by bit you see your life, and all your dreams, slip away. When you have to poop in the bushes because no coffee shop downtown will let you use the bathroom, dignity is hard to come by.
So how do you put that awareness into action?
For instance, many church groups that want to distribute food will all wear matching shirts, advertising their church. I am glad you are proud of your church, but what that says to the person you are sharing food with is, “You don’t belong, we don’t want to be confused with you.”
So, things like learning people’s names. And sharing yours. Asking their opinion, and giving weight to it. Realize that Mike or Sam who live under the bridge is as valuable to God, and bears as much of the image of God, as Pastor Jones or Mr. Smith at the bank.
Having real conversations. Being homeless means you are surrounded by people who are mentally ill, even if you are not mentally ill. That leaves you starving for conversation.
Being homeless is a process. I can’t find better words than those above to describe how being homeless happens. I see on almost a weekly basis many of the aspects of homelessness described. I am one of those guys who decides what food the homeless in my area eat. I see the pile of clothes that they pick through. Homelessness is a process…
There are several churches in the area that are rather active in helping the homeless. They all have good intentions. Some do better than others in actualizing those intentions. Our food inventory has been very good for the last year or so. There are numerous businesses and restaurants in the area that contribute their leftovers or out-of-date items on a weekly basis. There are also churches that come in to help serve the meals and some even prepare food and bring it in.
One of the devastating things about being homeless is the isolation that it brings. Being deaf I thoroughly understand what that isolation means. Many, as mentioned in the quote above, are starved for conversation. Too many of us, even with our good intentions, treat the homeless as a project instead people. We see the opportunity to help feed and clothe without recognizing that there is an actual person with feeling at the receiving end.
Homelessness is a process…