I have been reading Daily Life in a Homeless Shelter for a little while now, and I even drove a transient lady to Dothan about a month ago so I thought I really sort of had a handle on this whole thing. I was way wrong.
We spent the day today with women at a shelter here in Nashville. It was an interesting sort of place with beds and meals, but no real place for the women to go inside. They just sort of hung out in the back inside of this fence with their stuff. But what struck me the most was the fact that these weren’t your typical homeless people–or at least not what my preconceived notion of homeless people was. These weren’t smelly drunk people who were out of their mind. These were senior adult ladies and mothers and people who looked and talked like me. Some of theme chose to live a transient sort of life, some were mentally challenged, some were addicted to something or other, but a great majority of them were just people who had caught a bad break or two at just the wrong time and ended up with no place to go. My eyes were opened to a whole new side of homelessness, a side that isn’t bum on the street, but “real” people struggling to get back on their feet.
Of course the thing that hit me the hardest were the children–the babies. I mean can you imagine growing up in that sort of place surrounded by people on the streets. It was overwhelming.
And then you look and try to find a way to help them and there are no easy answers. They have trouble getting jobs without transportation. They have trouble getting jobs because they have to travel with their suitcases in their hands. They have trouble getting jobs because their address is a homeless shelter and everyone knows it. So they sit all day and wait for meal time and wonder how to get out of the mess that they have found themselves in and even though they have more time to think about it they can’t think of easy answers either.
My heart breaks for them, but I don’t really know what I need to do to help. Our town ships off our homeless for others to deal with. I keep thinking about how James said that true religion is taking care of widows and orphans and how could I honestly call myself a follower of Christ if I never really helped the poor–I mean really helped more than just one week a year. Lord, I don’t know what I can do, but show me where I am needed!