I sat tonight listening and praying for several hours as my community discussed the issue of homelessness and moving toward residential living. It is a complicated and heartbreaking story- one that touches us all. There was a clear desire to bring hope to the hopeless and to love the lost.
I listened, I prayed, and then I wept; I cried all the way home. I remembered my own story of homelessness and food insecurity. I remembered my husband whose addictions led him to live in the woods. I remembered my friends who sat helplessly watching family members and friends living that life with only a hint of hope remaining. And I cried some more.
Many people who live on the street and in the woods suffer from mental illness, addiction, or just a series of bad choices that spiraled out of control. No one grows up wanting to live without a home. Most people don’t plan to live with hunger. Not one person wants to struggle with debilitating health or mental issues. But it happens, even in the best of families.
If you ask, most people will say they want to help. However, there is another cost to homelessness that I heard. It is the disruption some of those suffering cause in the business community. My heart broke as I listened to story after story of businesses that were harmed by people urinating in public or aggressively panhandling patrons. I heard their frustration as they recognized the negative impact the homeless have in the places we all live and work. They want to help, but they are at their wits end about what to do as they struggle to protect their businesses where they have a responsibility to their own employees. I could almost hear their fear of losing everything themselves.
All this balanced by those desperate to provide affordable housing and a step up from poverty to the lost. These are people so far down that they can’t see up, without a hand being offered to pull them out of the darkness. They understand the call to care for the least among us. They understand that we cannot sit back and do nothing. They know that there will be problems in providing shelter and care for those less fortunate than us.
So what is the answer? How do we reach the underprivileged with love and kindness. How do we create a system within a system that allows merchants to continue to thrive and bring them to a place of helping too. How do we teach self-respect that holds each other accountable.
How do we do God’s work together?
We start where we can start. Provide where we can provide. Bring hope to all involved. Build a new community. Pray that God will show us all the right way. We can not do nothing. Together we can do the unimaginable. Talk more. Discern more. Hope more. Change more. TOGETHER
If you live in an area that may be impacted by the homeless in your community- use their businesses. Tell them you support solutions for homelessness and you support the longevity of their business in your community. Straddle both worlds and build relationships. Take a step forward. No one claims it will be easy; however, if we put our hope and trust in Jesus, in God, in the Holy Spirit- I am sure we will find the right way to concern this problem.
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13