These are the people we see shuffling along the streets with backpacks, standing in doorways out of the rain, wind or snow. We see them under bridges, or standing with a sign on the bridge asking to work for food, or for donations. Who are these people?
Do you shun these people when they come near you to ask for help or to tell you their stories because they are dirty and ill-kept? In the winter time, they have layers of clothing and hover near any place that offers heat.
Do you think they are bums too lazy to work? Or do you think they are alcoholics or druggies trying to get money for their habit. Or do you think they make a living by being a panhandler? Well, in some cases you are right, but they all need help.
I’m passionate on this subject of the homeless. I feel so sad when I see these people on the streets with their backpacks. Many of them are old, or look old. Some are young, and I’ve often wondered why they can’t work.
Who are these homeless people out there? Except for the grace of God it could be you or me. Let me tell you what I know and what I’ve observed.
There are veterans who end up on the street. I read about an air force vet, a pipe fitter for twenty years until he lost his job a few months ago, and then his apartment. An army vet, a construction worker who got hurt and landed on the street while waiting 18 months for Social Security disability to be approved. There are numerous veterans who aren’t getting the help they need every day, and they are ending up on the streets.
The two vets I mentioned above plus others were in Arizona in a homeless shelter. One night someone’s shoes were stolen off their feet while sleeping. After that the vets decided to work together to do something about it, and the theft stopped. That shows you they weren’t worthless, but just men down on their luck.
I know another example of a homeless man, and I was very close to his sister. My friend has a brother who is mentally ill. His family tries to help him, but when he gets off his meds, he wonders off and they will not hear from him for a year or so. Every now and then, he’ll remember them and get in touch. They clean him up and find him a place to live, but he goes off his meds, he takes off. They worry about him out there heaven only knows where, but they can’t make him take his meds.
Even here in Kansas City, we have a multitude of homeless and poor. I help at our church, The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in the downtown area once a month helping to feed the homeless. There are also the poor who come to eat, too, that means they have a place to live, but not always enough money to buy food.
Once again, I ask you who are these people. Read on, and I’ll tell you. A few years, I visited with a lady named Cathy at one of our luncheons, and she told me she had once had a good job with a big company here in our city. I don’t remember the exact circumstances now, but she quit taking the medication she needed, and eventually lost her job and everything she had. She ended up living on the street. I was appalled by what happened to her, and I told several people in the church about her. Eventually, this lady was helped off the street.
This past winter, I started seeing a man whom I just knew that if he was homeless he shouldn’t be. He was dressed as if he was going on a job interview. The man sat alone, and although I tried to strike up a conversation with him going through the line for his food, he kept his head and wouldn’t look at me or answer. I realized it was shame preventing him from looking at anyone, and I wondered what caused his circumstances as I wonder about all of them. This summer, he’s not a loner. There are people he sits with and talks to now.
There have been times when I’ve seen whole families come in to eat at our church. Some are transient, some live out of vehicles, and some may have a home but not enough to eat. Many seniors even if they aren’t homeless, barely have enough to eat, and most of them have to decide if they want to eat or take the medicine they need to live. Some of them end up on the street because they can’t afford the taxes on their homes.
There’s another church close to mine who feeds the homeless Monday through Friday, and there are places like City Union Mission and numerous others where the homeless can get food and even a place to live temporarily. It’s not enough. All of these places are filled and overflowing, and they depend on donations from people like you and me, or businesses.
The Harvesters donate food from their pantry to our church, but this past winter they had none to share with us because there were so many people who needed help. Some of the other businesses around the city chipped in with pizza, chicken nuggets, salad fixings, soup, etc. Because of the economy and loss of jobs, there are more people than ever that need help from organizations like the Salvation Army and food pantries.
I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a fund raiser, but can you imagine how much help $1.00 from everyone who has it could make. People and the organizations who help them need our help.
Thanks for reading my blog. I could say more, but I’ll leave it for another day.
Until next week,