What comes to mind when you hear the word “homeless”?
I know for me, I was taken right back to my years in New York, where it was common place to see people sleeping on the sidewalk in the snow, begging on the subway with no legs, or just wondering aimlessly through the city…dirty, pungent, quiet, and crazy.
Up until about 2 years ago, this was my only experience with the homeless, my stereotypes confirmed, not by imagination, but by what I saw on a daily basis in the Concrete Jungle.
But this is not the only illustration of a person without a place to call “home”.
Cut to present day, Canton, OH. My friends run a homeless shelter downtown and through them, I’ve have had the privilege of getting to know some great people….who just happen to be homeless.
A man who struggles feverishly with an addiction that keeps him in just enough bondage to not be able to live on his own…too much freedom…and then spiraling back down. This man is my friend. One of the sweetest men I know…respectful, caring. This man could be my own father…he IS a father…and he is homeless.
A younger guy just a couple years older than me whos mind won’t stop running (anybody relate?)…only it’s not just a few worries here and there…his mind is a prison that attacks him first thing in the morning…causing a good worker to quit a job with no reason, keeping him from steady employment…and so the cycle continues. This guy is my friend. Intelligent, serious, hard worker, great conversationalist, sensitive to women. I could have gone to high school with this guy…and he is homeless.
And there are others…people just like you and me…somebody’s son, uncle, father, grandfather, brother, nephew.
In one month, the shelter they call home will close due to lack of funding. Even after much effort on the Majors’ parts.
For some of the men, it will be a fresh wind, inspiring them to step up to greater things.
I’ve seen my friends who run the shelter work long hours from sun up to well past sundown, taking care of whatever needs to be done and counseling in the process. They take calls well into the night to meet a need and get up the next day to do it all over again.
This past weekend, we spent hours in a warehouse (no heat, running water, or bathrooms) providing one last neighborhood sale in an effort to empty out the shelter’s Thrift Store in preparation for the close. We laughed, we danced, we conversed with the customers, we fellowshipped. And it was a wonderful time…and these are considering society’s…”undesirables”.
I’m grateful for the moments to be able to get to know the guys as humans and not “cases”.
And as I was reminded later that night, we are living in a time where we are all are just a paycheck or two away from being homeless.