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?