I have soft spot for homeless people. I don’t know why, but I always have. For years I tried to figure out how and why people become homeless. I’ll spare you all my past guesses and theories, and just tell you my current ones.
Mental Illness-You hear this one a lot, in my opinion, because it is true. In my previous job, I worked with abused kids. We had one young man who was medicated for a mental illness. When he was on his meds, he did pretty well, But he didn’t like to take his meds, and so he would refuse which was usually followed by him running away for a few days. Then he would come back with no explanation. Maybe he was hungry or cold? He was a very sweet young man until something made him angry and (like the other young people we worked with) you could never be sure what might trigger him. We had an understanding among the staff that if he got really angry, we would get all the other kids and staff a safe distance away and call the police because he could be violent (and he was a big kid.) He “aged out” of the system (meaning he turned 18 while in foster care). The last time I saw him, he had a job, and a place to live. But knowing his history, I wondered how long that could last. I have always been afraid that he would be one of those who end up homeless. I blame his illness,
Abuse–Years ago I had a short term job working in a homeless shelter for families. Until that time, I had no idea that families could be homeless too. I was naïve back then and thought only scruffy looking older men became homeless. I understand better now that some of those families were women with abusive husbands fleeing with their children. Sometimes teenagers run away from home and end up homeless because of abuse as well.
Job Loss/Unemployment–I have heard stories of people who ended up on the street because of the loss of a job. Many of us could have ended up in that situation if we didn’t have family to fall back on, I suspect.
Poor life choices–I think it is true that some people end up on the street because of drugs or alcohol. Still my heart goes out to them. You may have heard that when you pick up one end of a stick you also pick up the other end. I think that when people start to drink or use drugs, they don’t fully understand the other end of that stick. The consequences can be pretty terrible, even if you don’t end up homeless, why would anyone make that choice if they truly understood it?
There are likely many more reasons, but those are my top theories.
If you are even a little curious about homeless people and what it is like to live on the street, I recommend the book, Under the Overpass by Mike Yankowski. I love this book. Mike was a college student when he decided to live on the streets for five months. Why? He wanted to know if his faith in God would be as strong if his life were not so easy. Under the Overpass is about those five months. Because he is religious, he filtered the language for readers. No F-bombs in this book. I felt he bordered on being a bit preachy at times, but nothing that would keep me from giving him a 5-star book review.
My daughter, Vienna, also has a soft spot for homeless people. And she came to it on her own, not from me. For her it started when her youth group from church did a service project with Mamma’s Hands an organization that helps the homeless. It only took one time of going to a park and giving food to the homeless people and she was hooked. She wrote a blog post about her experience called, A Homeless Man, A Gangster and Me (or something like that). I’ll see if she will let me post it as a guest post later.
It is Vienna that inspired this mitzvah. Lately she has been
nagging bugging asking politely, but repeatedly for me to take her to Seattle so she can hand out some “homeless kits”. Yes, she wants me to drive her around Seattle so she can find homeless people and give them her kits.
Her kits are things she puts together with her own money–a can of soup, a bottle of vitamin water, a tooth-brush, tooth paste and deodorant. Or things of that nature. Usually she makes them up and I give them away when I am in Seattle for therapy or other appointments. But this time she wants to make an afternoon of it!
Like many of you, I shy away from giving homeless people money. But it is a really great feeling when I can grab one of Vienna’s kits and hand it to someone. If you don’t want to drive around with a bag of goodies in your car-just waiting- another option could be to buy a couple of gift cards to fast food places. Those would be easy to keep in the car and hand out when you see someone on the street corner. Or if you prefer, you could donate money or time to an organization like Mamma’s Hands. Whatever you do, like any mitzvah you will be left feeling like you were the one most blessed.
- Youth Homelessness Trail (kimoradiep.wordpress.com)
- How Homeless People Use Technology: A Photo Essay On Street Poverty And Consumer Gadgets (embargozone.com)
- Do Homeless People Have Rights? (thehomelessguy.blogspot.com)