Tom and I have moved downtown. We love it downtown! We feel closer to the heartbeat of the city. The heartbeat of this city, however, has me in a quandary.
Even though my job as the Director of the Joel Home, (homes for youth transitioning out of Foster Care or off the streets) keeps me in the loop on homelessness in our city, my daily life has not personally intersected with the homeless. I lived where the homeless did not wander. There were no services for them in my neck of the woods. It was so easy to forget about them while in the comfort of my warm, cozy, comfortable home and happy neighborhood. That’s just the plain truth.
I live downtown now and every day I have opportunity to drive along the streets where the homeless live. Every day I come to a corner where I am confronted with an individual holding a sign and I ask myself, “What can I do?”
I try and look these men and women in the eyes for a brief second so that they know someone saw them, but then I divert my eyes. I divert my eyes not because I find them repulsive, but because in that moment I don’t have an answer for their need. I feel helpless. I don’t want them to look ME in the eyes and question whether I care.
I care. I care deeply.
Jesus tells us that when we serve the least of these, his sheep, we serve Him! (Matthew 25)
Oh my! If I want to live out these words I must put action behind my faith. Shouting a “Jesus loves you!” or “Get a job!” just won’t cut it. I need to serve these precious souls as if they were Jesus. I’d say that is a little life changing to see these individuals as, JESUS!
If it were Jesus standing there I would want to know why he is standing there in the cold asking for help? What brought him to this moment? I would want to know his story.
But the car behind me honks and I’m forced to move away from his story and leave him in the cold.
I’ve thought about tossing the homeless a granola bar or a bottle of water with a message of hope on it. But in my heart I know that isn’t the answer. There are plenty of food and clothing pantries in Colorado Springs. In fact, there are so many that we have an additional problem of trash along our ravine banks where the homeless discard their clothing that are dirty (no place to wash) and leftover food they did not need (they are given excess). I have seen pictures of the TONS of rubbish that has been picked up along the banks. So getting them food and clothing isn’t really the problem. What is it then?
I get calls frequently about individuals in transition looking for a place to stay. The Joel Home can only house a maximum of 4 girls and 4 guys. That isn’t a lot of provision in a City of 400,000, so we often have to turn people away.
The day before Thanksgiving I received a call about a young man, 19, who had emancipated out of Foster care and had been kicked out of his foster home. He had no money, no job, no housing. The Joel Home was full.
I received a call this week about a young mom and her little girl who were escaping an abusive situation and the Department of Human Services (DHS) had been putting them up in a Motel for two weeks and could no longer subsidize them. They had called 21 local agencies and could not find one little room for them. Somehow they were referred to me and now I’m on the hunt, with DHS, for a home for these two wandering sheep.
I don’t have all the answers and I am just one person. But there are some things I CAN DO. I’ll be carrying a box of granola bars or water bottles in my car and I’ll toss them one as I drive by. Perhaps I will attach a message that says something like, “I see you, I care, and I’m doing all I can to provide better housing in this city! God’s blessing on your life.” Perhaps this will take care of my momentary anxt as I pass them by each day.
Then, I will do all I can do to create opportunities for more housing in our city.
A couple other things I can do and we can do together:
- Donate to those places that provide housing in our city, so more housing can be provided; the Joel Home, Mary’s Home, Springs Rescue Mission, Greccio Housing to name a few. If you live in another city, I’m sure there are a number of great options. More funds = more housing. Simple as that.
- Find more homes. Be a home, that will open their doors to the lost sheep. I have a group of friends that keep a room open in their homes for transitioning opportunities. Not every situation is a fit, but I know I can knock on their doors and they will open their doors and hearts to consider housing one of these lost sheep who need a safe place to transition.
What’s complicated is the “how”. What’s not complicated is that we are all called to love and to “do”; not so that we earn our salvation, but so that we show our love for Jesus.
I can sit in my cute, comfortable little home living out the 10 Commandments and patting myself on the back, or, I can do what Jesus tells me to do in Matthew 25 and make my life messy by actually serving Him, the least of these.
Yes, I know. “Ouch!” Sorry, but we live in a time where honest conversations are necessary. There is too much at stake.
I do not want to hear the words, “Depart from me!” as I stand before him in the end. I think I will keep my life messy and serve Him.
Oh, the beauty and blessings of a messy life!