Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Homeless

What are your perceptions of the homeless?

While we were living in Mississippi I got involved with a gal at our church that had written a bible curriculum for children at risk. She was a nurse practitioner and had worked with the homeless in Hawaii. She was able to set up a time for us to teach what we called Bible Club to children in a transitional home for homeless mothers and their children. She and her husband were just staring their family so she was not always able to be involved. Eventually, I moved from the transitional home to the soup kitchen next door that had an after school and summer program for kids in the neighborhood that might otherwise be left alone. I also drove for a Meals on Wheels program through that soup kitchen on Mondays.

I learned a lot.

When we moved to Colorado Springs in 2002 I got involved with another soup kitchen. We were homeschooling our children so they went with me on Thursdays and we helped prep food, cook, serve and clean. We also helped organize donations. This ministry was run differently than the one in Mississippi and I couldn't help but compare. I was disturbed by the fact that although this, like in Mississippi, was a faith based ministry there was no prayer before the meal and in the separate room they had for families there was a plaque on the wall stating that one of their rights was to receive meals without proselytizing. I respected the rules of the ministry but it didn't set well with me. The people were also different. There were those that were grateful and then there were those that were demanding and rude. There were also people that showed up that were obviously not homeless. Once a bunch of people rode up on their motorcycles all decked out in their leather... and proceeded to go through the line. I was floored. A lady that had to weigh 400 lbs told me that her husband left her three years before. She lived in a house not far from there and she told me that she had not had to buy groceries in all that time. Also, after the meal we packed up the leftovers and handed them out to whoever wanted them. The waste was incredible.

We stopped going when I started to fear for the safety of my oldest daughter as she was exhibiting lack of judgment in dealing with some of the men there. That was five, maybe closer to six, years ago. I have not volunteered in that way since... until last weekend.

As I step back into this world I've been thinking a lot about what the answers are. People are homeless for different reasons... Drugs, alcohol, bad choices, events beyond their control, and mental illness with it often being a combination of some or all of those things. There are also children who are there through no fault of their own. It is a lot to take in and can be overwhelming. Most of those that actually live on the streets are men. There are many more programs available for women and children.

Politically the homeless are often used as a pawn. The fact is homelessness is a complicated issue. What do you think about it?