This week my heart breaks for the many people experiencing homelessness that have expressed that they feel oppressed, that they feel like systems are set up against them, that they feel hopeless.
One gentleman, a vet struggling with mental illness, says that all he wants is some sort of shelter and the opportunity to work somewhere. He is a hard worker, I’ve seen it! Once he’s set his mind to a task he works like a machine, and yet, his illness and homeless status keeps him from being eligible for work. Another gentleman was talking about how one can’t get a job without an address and one can’t get shelter without some sort of income, so perhaps the first guy is right….I can see how it would be easy to feel like the system is wonky. Finally I talked with a young woman who wants to work so that she can get a place of her own, have purpose, have the self-respect that comes with knowing that one can support oneself. She almost had a job, but then was rejected. She keeps looking though, because she knows that gainful employment will offer her healing in so many ways.
These are just three of the many stories that I head this week; directly from people who are living on the streets, living in tents, living in temporary shelters, staying with whoever will have them. I also hear the myths that society tells. I have heard that if “those people” learned how to budget then they would be able to support themselves with their minimum wage paychecks/disability checks/social security checks. Go ahead, do the math. It doesn’t work! I have heard that “those people” want to live off the state or the government or other people. I can honestly tell you that no one I talk to wants to live off of anyone else. For as much as “us people’ may complain about having to go to work or some of the stuff that comes with being part of an organization, most people also appreciate having a reason to get up in the morning, knowing that we have enough to pay our bills, to have a roof over our heads, to take our kids out for ice-cream. Friends, believe me, I am realistic, not just another bleeding heart. I know that sometimes people scam the system, but in my direct experience they are few and far between.
I’m asking you today to consider the myths that can be created around vulnerable populations. I’m asking you today to be curious as to why those myths exist, what purpose do they serve? Who do they serve? I’m asking you to day to discern where the truth is in those myths. I’m asking you to discern what we as a society or as individuals believe about those experiencing homelessness and how those beliefs inform our actions.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. ~1 John 3:17-18