Yesterday was my last “official” day of standing. There’s so much I’ve learned from this experience that I’ll probably be writing these blogs for awhile, if that’s okay with you. After all, the journey isn’t over—it’s really just beginning. So now I pass the baton to those of you who do care and are ready to prove it. This was never about me making a personal statement but about awakening our community and showing you that, together, we can make a difference and address poverty the right way.
Some of you might be under the illusion that I think all homeless people are innocent: they say their prayers every night, never fight, steal, or drink alcohol, and they have bright shiny halos. Well, I can assure you that’s not the case. I know far too well the dark side of homelessness. There are people out there who have mental illnesses and addictions of all sorts; and some have social issues just like those of us who have roofs over our heads. Some are out there for a reason—they’re hiding from authorities; and others have criminal records that make it hard to find work, and yes, there are sex offenders out there, too. And there are those who choose not to work, and others who work but still choose to be homeless. There was one guy in Nashville who had a shack in Tent City … he’d been homeless for over ten years. He worked odd jobs and got a disability check, but when he was offered housing he turned it down because 1) he couldn’t bring his cats, and 2) he enjoyed the freedom. In my writings, I never set out to make the homeless look innocent, but I have tried to explain that there are many who don’t want to be homeless, and others who have made bad choices but who deserve at least one second chance. The point is that we are all human.
So, as we move forward, let’s do it safely. Here are a few rules to go by when giving out items like water, food, money, etc. Do it from the safety of your vehicle—just hand it out the window—or while you’re with someone else. Unless you know the person, don’t give rides, and even then make sure you’re not alone. Don’t go out looking for camps; remember, a camp is home when you’re on the streets—and like I mentioned, some folks are hiding from authorities for a reason.
One of the biggest ways to make a difference is to help us get this homeless shelter up and going. That way, fewer folks will be living on the streets, and we can find ways to keep others off the streets. And then you’ll be able to come and help one-on-one in a safe environment.
Here’s the deal: we can’t stop here. There are a lot of hurting people in our community, some with a roof over their head and some without. They need someone to show they do care. They need someone to show they matter—that they’re not a mistake. There are hundreds of potentially homeless people that we can keep from ending up on the streets, but they need our help. How will they know the love of Jesus if someone doesn’t show them? They’ve been told often enough. Words without action are just words. How will they know about God’s grace unless someone tells them? What if that someone is you?
For those of us who believe that Jesus is the answer to the lost and broken of the world, it’s time to step up and prove it.
Sign the petition here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/clarksville-city-council