I spent Saturday downtown with Stephen & some off the YAM crew. We collected coats, blankets, hats, scarves and gloves from our church's congregation. They made it happen in a big way... as they usually do!
We sat up shop along the edge of Monroe Park... a local homeless hang-out in the city. They seemed really blessed by everything we had to offer. One man held his new pair off gloves up to Heaven, closed his eyes and thanked God for them. I think he'd spent too many frigid nights with cold hands recently.
Another lady came through so happy to have a new jacket. She kept saying... "I can't believe some of these still have the tags on them." I wish I had a picture of her pretty smile to show you.
Most of the pictures I took were incognito style. A lot of them I snapped as the camera hung around my neck. I didn't want to be invasive. This one however was asked for. When he saw my camera he struck a pose.
YAM usually spends at least one Saturday a month down at the park. Coffee and doughnuts have been the recent favorite thing to share. Stephen has been the one to go lately. I remembered Saturday how much I enjoy my time down there with my homeless friends. I really need to go more often(.)
I ran into one of my buddies that I met last time I was down there. He shared with me during our last visit that he used to have a successful career, nice home, awesome car... he was living the middle class American life. Then because of a few bad decisions he ended up on the street. This time he seemed a little harder and much more reserve than I remember him being the last time. I remembered our recent chat about his conversion out of the Jehovah Witness religion. When we last talked he was still kind of up in the air about his beliefs in God. As I approached him this time he immediately made it very clear that he didn't want my Jesus. He shared several stories and his theories on why Jesus wasn't real. He's been hurt a lot.... many times by christians. His perception of Jesus has been tainted. He didn't understand why there could be so much hurting and injustice in the world if my God was real and especially if my God was a loving God. It didn't matter what I said.... he'd heard it all. He'll come around. We'll pray for now and just be a friend. We're also working hard to find him a job and help him sell an old non-running car that he has. He said that if he could sell the car, the money he would make (about $1500) would give him the opportunity to get a temporary place to stay, clean shave and enough resources to obtain a fairly decent job. He helped me realize that when you are living in poverty with no shelter and barely any food you are in complete survival mode. Daily your thoughts are on the sheer basics of life, much less finding a decent job. His daily focus: finding a safe, dry place to rest his head and enough food to make it to the next day... He's been held at gun point once and almost got stabbed last week.
I also met two younger guys... probably early 20s. They asked me to pray that they would find a warm place to sleep. Our city has a pretty good homeless system in place. Unfortunately, though there are still several hundred people without shelter every night. They told me that someone had stolen their bags, with their IDs... and apparently you can't get shelter without an ID... huh? Now they have to wait 2 to 3 months for their new IDs to come in.
It's going to be really cold by then.
Statistics show there are thousands of homeless people in our city... just our city.
Reasons for homelessness:
-eroding work opportunities
-decline in public assistance
-lack of affordable health care
(info found at "National Coalition for the Homeless" website)
They may not have all the answers to end homelessness in our city, but once a month these guys venture down to the park to show love... the Jesus kind of love...
a prayer, a shoulder, a listening ear, a smile, some respect and dignity...
I found this helpful blog post to share... Ways to help the homeless. Take time when you can to chat with and pray for the homeless.
They could really use a friend!