A Bigger Vision, who brought us the films “Uncharted” and “Under the Bridge”, is working on a new documentary called “Beyond the Bridge: A Solution to Homelessness”. What is this solution? It is called Housing First and it is a proven model that provides immediate access to permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals with mental health and addiction challenges. Please check out the web site at bit.ly/EndHomelessCrisis to learn more!
Coming soon: information on Indy School on Wheels and Outreach, Inc – two organizations working to help children and young people experiencing homelessness in the Indy area
I recently came across this simple, yet profound, little phrase noted above and have adopted it as a key theme not just for my own life, but for my work helping friends experiencing homelessness. Trust me, I have become very aware of the fact that I am neither a case manager nor a social worker. The trained professionals who pour themselves daily into the cause of helping the homeless deserve so much appreciation. Amateurs such as myself do our best to fill in gaps and also supplement their efforts to meet the most basic needs and provide friendship and encouragement. But, if we are not careful, weeks and months may go by with little, if any, real progress in getting someone off of the street. The result is that we bring a meal and have some of the same conversations every week. Now I realize that every situation is unique and I never have all of the facts about why someone is homeless and what they and others may be doing to “fix” the problem(s) (much of the time, virtually none of that information is available). But, once we begin to establish a relationship with someone and earn their trust, we MIGHT be able to have input into their activities and be of some influence to their thinking/actions, and THAT is where I want to be sure that I am reminding folks of this simple phrase…
We, collectively, must be willing to take action and accept the fact that it will take time to make substantive progress – and there likely will be setbacks. Nevertheless, we must not ever give up!
As I have continued to speak with more friends who are experiencing homelessness I often find myself growing discouraged that I can’t do more to help them – and faster! Compound that by the fact that they face so many difficult obstacles. But, I have to remind myself of this passage, and the message that, though problems may be a result of our mistakes and the actions (or inactions) of others, we must remember that our Lord is victorious over all of the pain and misery that is experienced in this life. Through Faith, we will also claim ultimate victory and the strength to encourage others to persevere in their struggles.
A few more great nuggets by Mike Yankoski from Under the Overpass. This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it!
“If we are the body of Christ—and Christ came not for the healthy but the sick—we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken. And it has to be more than just a financial presence. That helps, of course. But too often money is insulation—it conveniently keeps us from ever having to come face-to-face with a man or woman whose life is in tatters.”
“Think about it next time you walk past someone huddled in a doorway. It’s the easiest thing in the world to decide that the woman or man huddled there is choosing to dress in rags and reek of urine and body odor. Their choice, of course, means you can’t be blamed for ignoring her or him. The person doesn’t want to be pleasant, so you don’t need to care. At the very least, you don’t have to respond as you would if it were your mother or your brother huddled there. Right? But the fact is any one of us would look about the same if we were in the same place—having survived on the same sidewalks in the same cast-off clothing for months. Even more so if we wrestled alone in that doorway day after day with a substance addiction or a debilitating mental impairment, or both.”
“How do the men and women who have been enduring the streets for years and even decades manage? By that point in our trip, both Sam and I had a new appreciation for the determination it takes to just keep moving toward the next meal. And despite it all—or maybe because of it—we had a new understanding that God gives you His strength when you need it most.”
“Little things do mean a lot, especially in the kingdom of God, where giving a drink of cold water has eternal repercussions. And I am convinced that the more committed we become to impacting one person at a time—whether through a cup of coffee or a genuine conversation—the more we’ll prepare our hearts and our churches to respond at both a community and national level. The bottom line is that real love always shows itself in action. Nothing happens or changes in this world unless, by faith, we actually do something.”
I just finished reading Under the Overpass, an account of time spent living on the streets of six US cities by the author, Mike Yankoski, and a colleague. In this he states, “Though we were there for only five months, Sam and I felt this relational poverty strongly. Addressing this relational need is one of the most difficult and essential aspects of caring for those on our streets.” I absolutely agree with this and feel the same longing from our friends experiencing homelessness. They are often SO appreciative when you treat them with respect and compassion – just listening to them and treating them like human beings rather than scourges on society. To see them emerge from their shells and smile is a tremendous blessing.
I very often admire the strength that I see in our friends experiencing homelessness. While they may be broken in many ways (aren’t we all, if we are willing to admit it), they also contain much resilience and drive to survive. If society could find a way to harness that and help build them back up, I know we would see amazing results.
“The pages of history, they tell me it’s true. That it’s never the perfect, but always the ones with the scars that You use…” Matthew West