I have never been homeless, have you? I came close a couple times. When I was just a child, I threatened to run away a number of times, but that doesn’t really count, because I always came home. I was fortunate. The National Conference of State Legislatures has this to say about youth homelessness in the United States.
“Each year, an estimated 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness, of which 700,000 are unaccompanied minors, meaning they are not part of a family or accompanied by a parent or guardian. On any given night, approximately 41,000 unaccompanied youth ages 13-25 experience homelessness.”
These statistics are more than staggering for a country that is supposed to provide for the needs of the poor with many social programs available for them. It used to be that the church would look after those suffering from poverty. Being poor is not something we plan to be. Yet so many of our fellow Americans are sleeping on park benches, being devoured by health issues, addiction and so much more. They’re overlooked or looked down upon by the rich and seem to be too much to handle for the church.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole situation lately, because I live in a communty that has a swelling number of homeless and destitute, who are doing whatever they need to in order to stay alive. Most often those things include using and selling drugs, selling their bodies for sex and taking any \job just to get a meal.
Most of us have nice warm beds to tumble into each night. We don’t lack for a hot meal. Our bellies are usually adequately filled. There was a time in my life when I wondered if I might be one of those homeless millions, living out of dumpsters and hiding under bridges to keep the elements from killing me. We were living the good life. We had more than enough. My husband had built a successful business and several employees were partaking in the benefits. We purchased a newly built home on the advice of our accountant. He told us it would be a wise write off for tax purposes. For about two years everything continuued to prosper and then it all fell apart. Within only a few months, the economy fell apart. There was no need for my husband’s business anymore. We were forced into bankruptcy court and our new home went into foreclosure. For a short time there, we had no idea what we were going to do. Visions of panhandling on the side of the road became plausible. Being at the height of his career, my husband was now over qualified for every job he applied for. Until the right job came along, he drove a delivery truck and I cleaned toilets.
Those jobs provided just enough income for us to get by. Finding housing was another thing all together. Because of our past history, buying a house was impossible and we would have to scrape just to get by if we rented. Still we didn’t give up. Our prayers have always been a result of our relationship with God. He was the only One who could help us. Sometimes we have to hit the pits before we can rise out of them. This could’ve been the end for us, but we remained hopeful in the Lord and as usual He came through for us.
We all need to become aware of the needs of those struggling to survive the pangs of poverty in our communities. I’m not sure what we can do, but just reaching out to someone is probably a good first step. Letting them know that God loves them, even though they feel unloved. Giving them a purpose for living and helping in even the smallest ways can begin the healing. Leading them to find employment or offering a meal. What may seem meaningless to us, can mean everything to them. Our Savior, Jesus had a lot to say about the poor and our obligation to help them. He was Himself without a permanent residence during His ministry. It all begins with us and our willingness to care for others as we would want to be cared for in like circumstances.
Kathy, I appreciate your voice of concern for others in need. During my final nine years of teaching at an urban middle school in Columbus, we would occasionally encounter a homeless student, either all alone or family. Our school counselor reached out to these few students to connect them with vital services.
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