This writing has been on my heart for years, but I have struggled to put it out there because I do not want any praise or compliments from this, so I have turned off the commenting for this post. In all honesty, it is not what I have done, but what God has done through me and I give the Holy Spirit credit for always leading me to where I'm needed. I do believe I have stories that should be told, so I have finally decided to put it out there. I pray that it encourages someone to do a similar good deed to any extent, big or small, and to help change the way homeless people are often viewed.
James 2:14-17 says "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
I have experienced God in many different ways, but one way that hits me harder than any other way is through the poor. God puts something different on everyone's hearts that is unique and sometimes easily misunderstood by others, but He chose your heart for a reason. That certain issue that seems to bother you more than others can be taken from a "soft spot" and created into a passion to accomplish. God gave me a soft spot for the homeless and a passion to help them in the many different ways that they need assistance and support.
A few years ago, I put my artistic and writing God-given talents together to create a Blessing Box. I painted small craft boxes and put sticky notes and a pen inside for people who wanted to count their blessings every day in order to create a habit of always seeing the good in everything and not taking anything for granted. I also provided a letter written by myself on how to see the good things every day and how God uses your problems to actually benefit you even when He doesn't always respond exactly when and how we expect.
I used 100% of the profit from those Blessing Boxes to put towards assisting the homeless in any way that God would present to me. I purchased and was given a bunch of necessities to keep in a bag in my trunk that was specifically for the homeless at any time I may run into one in need. Once I was prepared and equipped to help the poor, I started asking God to put me where I'm needed and He answered those prayers multiple times and continues to do so. One experience that I had while living in Indianapolis is one that I shouldn't leave untold.
I had plans to play basketball all day, but God had a different plan for me that day. I was hungry on my way to the gym and for some reason I knew I had to be at a specific Noodles & Company location right by my apartment. I spent literally 42 minutes trying to find the restaurant and it wasn't even listed on my GPS, but I knew I couldn't give up. There was another Noodles and Company listed 10 minutes from the one I was looking for, but for some reason I felt called to find the specific one I had gone to before. I thought I was starting to lose my mind thinking maybe they got rid of it or changed the location. It was strange and frustrating because I wasn't even in the mood for pasta. I started to get more and more impatient, so I kept reminding myself that everything happens not only for a reason, but a good reason. While I was driving around like a maniac, I knew the reason had to do with helping the poor. I even texted my friends and asked if I should help the homeless today or just give up and go through a drive-thru somewhere and be back on my way to play basketball, even though I know I wouldn't have been able to. With no reply from the group chat yet, I finally found the restaurant in the same spot I drove past back in forth. I swear it was like it reappeared out of nowhere or maybe I'm just blind.
I walked in and ordered my food, still frustrated because I wasn't even hungry anymore at this point and I just wasted so much time. After I ordered my food, I turned around to look for a place to sit down and eat and there was only one customer in the entire place. One homeless man playing cards by himself at one of the booths. After I got my drink, I went to his table and introduced myself and asked if I could join his card game. He looked up and gave me the biggest smile I think I have ever seen before and said of course. He very politely declined my offer to buy him anything to eat or drink.
After talking for a little over an hour I asked him, "if you could do anything you wanted to do today regardless of time, travel or money, what would you do?" With only about five seconds of thinking and no expectations, he smiled and cheerfully said "I would really love to see a movie. I haven't been to the theater in years." I looked up movie showtimes to the nearest theater and we had an hour to kill before the movie he chose started playing. The next hour we spent walking around downtown determined to find a barber shop to give him a clean shave and haircut before we were on our way to the theater.
After the movie, I was driving him back to his spot and I wanted to bring up God and how I made Blessing Boxes to be able to afford to do that for him, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up. Then out of nowhere, he randomly asked me, "have you ever prayed so hard for something over and over again and just feel like God won't answer you?" This was the exact moment I was hoping for. I immediately was able to reach in the backseat to get out an extra Blessing Box letter and read him the part that talks about His plan for us. He started tearing up as he told me that this experience and letter were exactly what he needed to regain hope and motivation to get back on his feet. After he got out, I let him go through the homeless care bag that I keep in my trunk and he only took a blanket. **Side note: Every homeless person I have given the bag to for them to go through and take what they need, has only ever taken one thing and when I tell them that they can take more, they always say someone else might need it more.**
I honestly cannot remember this mans name, but he will always be in my thoughts and prayers because he honestly changed my life. The situation gave me assurance of my prayers and hopes for what we can do for the homeless if we get away from the stigma that they are all "crazy, dangerous, alcoholics and drug addicts". It has never made any sense to me that some people will turn away helping someone in need because of the stereotypes of someone who doesn't have a home and that they will "just use that money to spend on drugs or alcohol". My response to that is, it doesn't matter what they do with the money as long as YOU are doing YOUR part in helping someone in need, you're doing all that YOU can do. And if it does concern and worry you that much, you can always get them gift cards to food places or a pharmacy for necessities.
There are many safe ways to assist people in need if you're praying for the opportunity to help and have the eyes to see when you can be helpful. It's a situation that you can prepare yourself for by purchasing gift cards, every day necessities and setting extra money aside to pay for their meals. If you're a busy person and don't think you have enough time to help, there are ways to get around that as well. You can keep these items easily accessible on hand or in your car to give out at stop lights or on your way into a store when you're passing by a person in need on the way to whatever you're busy doing.
You can't give what you don't have and I know some of us are struggling to even take care of ourselves and our own families and don't always have the spare money to give, but some things don't require money. It costs $0.00 to acknowledge someone who probably doesn't even get treated like a regular human anymore. Sometimes even a smile at them and a simple "Hello!" could change their day or life around and spark something in them. Personally, I have learned the best life lessons and have gotten a completely different perspective on life just by having conversations with someone who was in a spot less fortunate than me.
I know some people have their safety concerns on approaching a homeless person, but the average homeless man has a greater chance to be killed than being a murderer. Movies and TV shows make them look dangerous, but I personally have never felt unsafe or uncomfortable by someone homeless. While homeless, a simple untreated infection or sickness can be deadly to them without medical care. A person who is fighting the battle of life and death himself would not think about killing another person.
I realize that some people are analytical and need numbers to truly have a good understanding of something, so here are some about the homeless according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report. Click to learn more about this issue.
552,830 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018. (17 out of every 10,000 people in the USA)
20% (111,592) are children, 9% are between ages of 18 and 24 and 71% are over 24 years old.
38,000 veterans were experiencing homelessness.
Only 18% of overall homeless people have substance abuse issues.
Only 23% suffer from mental illness.
Another stereotype of homeless people is that they are lazy and "need to get their own job". I think if we all spent one day and night on the street, we would realize that it's actually probably harder and takes extra effort to do even the little things in life. According to the Count Us In survey:
25% of the homeless population is employed and 40%-60% floats in and out of full-time and part-time work.
45% of respondents said they were unemployed and looking for work at the time that they were interviewed.
49.8% of respondents said they received payment for work in the previous 12 months.
A very solid point from an informative Christ In The City video is that 56% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and if they lose their job, they lose their way to pay for housing which is the number one cause of homelessness. If you're blessed like me, you have a support system to rely on in case something tragic like that were to happen. These people don't always have that same support system, so I encourage you to be some sort of support in their lives in any way that you can.
Again, I am in no way trying to receive praise from my opinions, it is just something that I am passionate about raising awareness for and trying to make a difference. In no way do I assume that I am better than anyone because it is simply just the issue that God has placed on my heart as He does to other people for different issues. I hope to shine a light on this subject that many have formed their opinions based off of stereotypes. As people, we should keep in mind that many of us are just "one paycheck" "one health situation" or "one random accident" away from being just as less fortunate. We are all human and shouldn't judge someone based on if they have a home or not. After all, the people who go through the most in life, can teach you the most in life. Be a voice to the helpful, for the voiceless helpless.
Spread a little love today, kid.