a bench with a view

a bench with a view

Saturday, March 17, 2012

the face of homelessness

Our church yearly participates in a program called Interfaith Shelter that helps provide temporary shelter for homeless people. Those who are accepted into the program are prescreened and have case workers that help them try to find jobs, other resources they might need, etc.

The concept is that each church that participates hosts the participants for two weeks, providing three meals a day and a warm safe place to sleep at night. There are 12 participants in the program that can range from single people, married couples, single parents with children, married couples with children.

Some churches the sleeping facilities are primitive. An auditorium separated in two for the women and men, people sleeping on cots. Others are a bit more refined, separate rooms for families and shower facilities.

Much coordination has to go in to coordinate the needs for the guests as they are called for their 2-week stay. Food is needed for breakfast, lunch (a sack lunch usually since they need to leave the facilitate after breakfast) and dinner.  Overnight hosts have to be provided for each night of the two weeks because one of the requirements is that the guests are not alone at the facilities they stay at without "supervision" and rules. Each guest knows what is expected of them, time they have to check in, time they have to leave, what they can have and can't have in their rooms, i.e. no weapons allowed.

Last year we were just starting to go to the church when they were hosting the shelter for their 2-week stint that we didn't get involved in it. It fascinated me and I looked forward to helping when it was our church's turn again.

Because our church does not have a permanent facility but meets in a high school, we partner with another church that has facilities that can house the guests. We agree to provide the food and other supplies and overnight hosts and they open their facilities for the homeless.

The program runs December through March.

Our church started their 2-week commitment last Saturday. Today was our community group, small group, fellowship group, whatever you want to call it, turn to bring dinner. We had signed up to provide dinner tonight. We had also signed up to bring supplies as needed, individually hubby and me helped bring juice needed and fruit needed.

We coordinated what we would make and showed up to serve dinner to the guests and eat with them.

Homeless is not the drug addict. Homeless is not the alcoholic. Homeless is families with children, couples having no jobs, no income, no benefits, no place to live.

Homeless was a dad raising his 14-month-old daughter alone because his wife, her mother, had been deported to Chile. Homeless was taking that daughter with him to job interviews because he didn't have anyone to watch her while he went to said interview. Yet she was well cared for, clean, loved.

Homeless was a mom with two children. Thankfully they were getting into an apartment tomorrow, one could hope they would be able to maintain it and not be on the streets again.

Homeless was grateful for the meal brought in. Homeless had hearty appetites. Homeless asked if there was dessert (yes) after they finished the main meal.

Homeless was the dad raising his 14-month-old daughter who said he fed her powdered milk in a can that he could add water to when he was out and about but he only had four more days of it. Tugging at the hearts of the moms there providing the meal, we pulled our money together to go to the store and buy some to help cover some of his need.

I was definitely humbled being with them. Despite it all, they were polite, grateful, friendly.

Most had no idea what they would do when the program ended at the end of March. The father with the 14-month-old thought he had a friend that would let him live in the back of their van.......I can't imagine.......

Hubby and son are going to be overnight hosts one day next week. They'll sleep on lumpy bunk beds instead of their usual warm beds with the comforts of home we take for granted, internet, cable TV. They'll have to get up early to get the people out and about, keeping them going to make sure they are out when they need to according to the rules of the program. Then they'll come home. Home. Somewhere safe, somewhere secure, somewhere familiar. They'll be put out a bit, but it will only be one night.

Yet so many are out there every day, every night, homeless. I can't imagine.

I can't do much, but what I can do, I will do.

I know there are other churches out there that participate in such programs like this. Yes it is a lot of work. Yes it takes commitment, yes it takes someone to coordinate it all. Usually it is only for two weeks out of a year.

Definitely worth it to help the least, the lost, the last.

Like Jesus would want us to do.

Whatever you do for the least, you do for me.

I am thankful our church has made the commitment to help what they can as they can.

I think we will always have the homeless with us. I think we need to do what we can as we can.

Because I think a lot of us are so close to being homeless too. I read somewhere that the average American is one paycheck away from being homeless.

These faces of homelessness will stay with me for a long time.......


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Our church helps to support a shelter like that too. Sad isn't it that we do have so many homeless that shelters like that are needed. It makes me so thankful for what I have and for what my family has. Any of us could wind up like that. That there are people willing to help others is a blessing, but my hope would be that there was no reason at all to be homeless in this world of ours where so much is available. Praying always for those in need.

Betty WSch. said...

I think you will be more blessed by giving them support then the homeless are receiving it.
God bless your good heart!

Jeanie said...

You have written about this problem in a very thoughtful way. I agree with Betty above that helping is as much a blessing to those who give as it is to those who receive. It is heartbreaking to think how many people and families are in need of the service you and your church are providing.

Shelly said...

What a wonderful program and what wonderful love you show these people. Got a lump in my throat at the dad with the 14 month old. I'm going to be praying for them. God bless you, my friend.

Sharon said...

Great idea, I guess I should get out of my shell and pay attention once in a while. I think a shelter for a couple weeks can be a wonderful idea for the helpers as well as the helped.


JosephAlsarraf said...

That's good that you church helps out the homeless. I think it's sad that there are homeless families out there with no way of providing for them because they can't get a job. I wish there would always be a place for them but, sadly there will always be someone that doesn't have any place to go. At least there are people and organizations willing to provide some food and shelter for them, wish I could help. : )

Robyn :) said...

That is wonderful that your church does that.

Our church has a program called The Church Welfare System where we will provide financial assistance as well as food for those in need. In return those being assisted are usually asked to help provide some service as well, like helping other members with yardwork or handman projects, etc. we will also try to find them permanent jobs if they need them or a place to stay if they are homeless.

Sometimes circumstances are beyond people's control.

jack69 said...

Oh lady you write a good story. The subject matter is so very important. This is a great program, thanks for introducing it to us. Such a worthy cause. Of course you heart would be touched, you have a kind one! A great Christian quality. God bless you guys for caring, enough.

The Vintage Boomer said...

In my town, we have a few Christian sponsored shelters, but not nearly enough. Everywhere in the rural parts of our town, are homeless encampments of tent cities. Many of them are recent felons who have been released from prison due to the bad economy and because of their criminal background, they are not allowed in the shelters. Redding, has always been a generous town for helping the homeless but right now we are being swamped from homeless throughout northern California.

This subject matter is close to my heart. There is not perfect answer, only a perfect God who can intervene.

God bless you for your work and dedication to the homeless.

The Brown Recluse said...

Being isolated in my little corner of the deep south, I don't see things like you describe...and you tell the story beautifully, by the way.

What a wonderful thing the churches and people are doing, pulling together to make a real difference in these lives.

I wonder...like the dad with the 14 month old, going to interviews...if he were to get a job, who would watch the baby until he got his first check and could pay someone? I am certain he feels overwhelmed, as I am sure so many of them do.

I shouldn't ever, never, ever forget, just how blessed I am. Thank you for reminding me.

Toriz said...

It's wonderful that people like you are helping people like that. It's just a shame it's only for those few months... I wonder what those people will do then? I suppose they'll be out in the street again in most cases?

Chatty Crone said...

Betty great article. I hear you. We support a ministry called Must. You know - I think it has gotten worse and worse because of the poor economy.

And on the other hand - we are all blessed and so lucky!


RoeH said...

Oh my gosh. How glad I am that you got me over here. People and their homelessness sometimes bring me to tears. I'm so sad for them and it makes me realize just how blessed I am. I complain and gripe about this house and the HOA, but sometimes I look around and think about just how lucky I am to be living here with such a low mortgage. Sometimes, it's good to step back and visualize just how lucky we are. I really need to count my blessings more. :)

Sharon said...

How inspiring. I am chagrined at how easily I take for granted the many, many blessings I have in my life. I can't even imagine being homeless. You're right, Betty - we need to be awakened to the need in our own communities. We need to let go of the *stigma* that has surrounded being homeless. We need to reach out and give a hand UP.


Rob-bear said...

When we in Occupy Saskatoon were occupying a downtown park, we were "adopted" by a lot of homeless people.

I met one of them on Sunday at worship. It's been about five months since I've seen her. She has been spending much of her time lately in the mental health unit of one of our hospitals. (A lot of homemess people have mental health issues - sometimes drug and alcohol problems come from unhealthy minds.) She got out to go to church, and had to be back to the hospital for lunch.

I commend you and others in your congregation for your faithful work. It certainly is not easy, even when working with your guests, who are relatively easy to house.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

What a wonderful program. I can't imagine what these people are going through. You should feel proud for participating and helping in any way you can. Do they have a fund where can be sent to help out?

Intense Guy said...

I hope that 14-year-old and her dad make it... find that job that is rewarding in many ways and she gets to school -

Its so hard doing this work - it pull hard at the inner light and you have to guard against loosing your own flame.

Brenda Youngerman said...

Sorry I'm just seeing this... but I think this is an amazing program that you are (errr. were) participating in.
The plight of the homeless is horrid and it is so often overlooked when politicians and high mucky mucks talk about issues. This one is alive and real and thriving in every community around us!