The homeless

The only homeless person I know personally chose to be homeless. He reveled in his freedom, slept in parks, joined the carnival, showered occasionally when he came to visit. This has colored my perception of homeless people. Perhaps I was less sympathetic than I ought to have been.

When I was a teenager, a couple of my friends and I used to go to the local Rescue Mission to sing. I don’t think the Tacoma Rescue Mission does this, but back in the day, that Rescue Mission insisted that the guests sit through a church service before they were fed. My girlfriends and I provided the music while the unkempt men stared. I was grateful to be sitting on the piano bench, hands on the keyboard, face to the wall. Those homeless men scared me.

Today, I went with my husband to a luncheon presented by the Tacoma Rescue Mission. Various politicians stood as we applauded. A local radio host gave a keynote address. (Mercifully short, not that it wasn’t interesting, but I find listening to speakers rather agonizing. I am a squirmer.)

Then, the director of the mission introduced a woman who read her story from a prepared piece of paper. I noticed her long blue fingernails. She described a life lived on the fringes, of twenty years of drug addiction, of a murder conviction and a 56-month sentence in the women’s prison at Purdy. She told of her phone call to the Rescue Mission, of how her life and the lives of her children were turned around. She spoke of her job at the Mission, of her promotion.

Tears sprung to my eyes.

Last year, the Mission provided shelter and services to families. But they could only help one of out every four that asked. Tonight, eighty children are sleeping at the Rescue Mission. Tragically, the majority of homeless people in this county are children.

The great news is that the Mission will soon begin building a Family Shelter which will allow them to meet the needs of so many more families. The sad news is that so many families need their assistance.

The good news is that we can do even small things to help. Here is what we can do locally. What can you do?

8 thoughts on “The homeless

  1. We have a Rescue Mission here and I help when I can. We have our own food pantry at my church as well. We have an organization that helps victims of domestic violence as well.

    Right now, the city is planning a shelter for homeless men but the foundation may never be dug. Already people are screaming “not in my back yard”

    The Tacoma study was good and I agree about the need to help the families (many headed by women) who are homeless. Many of us are one paycheck away from the same fate.

    What was missing in the Tacoma study though (and I wish I could find the link again) was that nationwide 26% of the homeless are veterans (probably of VietNam and Iraq).

    If Tacoma were to break down the numbers of mentally ill in their study, I wonder what the percentage would be.

    We can do better by our families and our mentally ill vets.


  2. Not only do we donate warm winter clothes to the local shelters, including item in children’s sizes, but I also carry a stash in my car. If I see a person out in the cold without proper clothes, I can stop and offer them a blanket, hat, scarf, or all three.


  3. I did some work with the homeless shelter in Topeka. It truly is heartbreaking, but also very gratifying, because you know you are making a real difference in lives.


  4. Hubby used to work for the Denver Rescue Mission. Hands down, one of the best experiences he ever had. The kids and I got to know and love some of the men down at the overflow shelter.


  5. We saw a homeless man outside of Rob’s work tonight, seeking shelter in the alcove of their office doors. Luke kept asking, “Why doesn’t he go home to his Mommy? Where is his home.” It is heartbreaking. As we were munching down at the Ram I couldn’t help but think of him hunched over trying to stay warm.


  6. Stories like that girls touches the heart even though I do feel that some homeless choose that lifestyle. I always am disppointed when my church sends funds to other countries and does not even help the people in their own county. It makes me sad. Our country needs “Operation Christmas Child” as much as Africa..(just an example).
    Thanks for the really makes you think.


  7. Here on the mission field in Costa Rica, we work the many who are homeless. Most of them are children. When an adult is homeless, you have a tendency to be less sympathic. After all, an adult is old enough to be responsible for his/her actions, but a little child. Here in the capital, San Jose, we frequently see children as young as 2 or 3 sleeping in doorways. It is heart breaking. How we wish we could help them all. Thank you for the post.
    Blessings from Costa Rica


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