Friday, April 03, 2009

Homelessness

Remember when I wrote about The Family Promise Network?

Our church hosted the guests in Family Promise again this week. I went to help serve dinner one evening and brought my two oldest children with me.

I met the guests and their children. Some of them have been in Family promise for many months while others have only been staying there a few weeks.

One mom opened up a little to me and all I can say about her is that she is raw. Like skin stripped away and placed under running water. Like a bruise that people keeping punching. Like a cut on a finger that gets lemon juice poured on it.

It stings.
It burns.

When I went to the training class that is required for all the volunteers at Family Promise I learned the most important thing to do while interacting with the guests is to treat them with dignity and not ask them very many questions, especially questions about their current situation, because they only stay in a church for a week and usually a different group of people help serve dinner every night so, if you had to explain to people why you are homeless while eating your dinner every night, well, I think dinner would start to be pretty unappetizing and a very dreaded time of the day.

I think I may have erred a bit on the side of not talking to the people for fear that I would make them uncomfortable. Even when the woman started telling me how she became homeless I kept quiet and listened to her and maybe that's all she needed, but I was hoping she didn't want me to offer advice or feel like she had to explain why she was there, but maybe she did. I'm sure it's hard to have a stranger look at you and know you're homeless and feel the need to explain that you're not a complete loser, but life threw you a few too many punches in a row and you just couldn't recover from the multiple beatings before the next punch came and landed you square in the pit of homelessness.

I think some of the people at Family Promise had more fight in them than others and view being in that spot as a temporary step and not their housing solution.

I was impressed by the children, they were all well behaved and sweet. They had fun playing with my kids and for the most part seemed happy. Their parents are doing the best they can for them right now.

I fed a toddler a bottle and watched two little boys so their mom could go outside for a break, I talked to a mom about the classes she was taking and her hectic schedule and I laughed with another mom about something silly that one of the children was doing.

When I left that night I felt heavy. I had guarded my heart and held my tongue. I knew my tiny contribution to these people was not going to change their situation, it may have slightly lightened their burden for a moment, but what I realized is it's up to them. Really. And the question in my head now is do they have the will and desire to fight? Will they be paralyzed by their fears, inabilities and lack of resources?

Some of them are going to have to fight a much bigger battle than others. Mentally, physically and spiritually all their battles are going to have to be fought and conquered if they want to cross the bridge to self reliance.

I know they are getting some help that is very beneficial and I hope they can take the hand that is being extended to them and hold on tightly until they are able to walk freely on their own.

I'll continue to help serve the guests in the Family Promise Network. Next time I'll be more comfortable interacting with the women and children, but I hope the next time my church hosts that some of the families that I met will be missing because they have found a home of their own.

11 comments:

Andi said...

April,

Good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone. Good for you for being burdened to help the less fortunate, even if you may feel it's not enough, or there's so little that' actually up to you. You may be the only person who has really listened to that woman's story in a really long time. God bless you, and thank you for being willing to be God's hands, if even for a small task.

Clayvessel said...

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Unfortunately, it is entirely possible we will see more and more homeless families. We already are. Cities are making provisions for tent encampments. People are making permanent camps in the mountains around me. Living in campers. It's happening.

It makes me feel I shouldn't take anything for granted.

cndymkr / jean said...

I know you're supposed to feel better when you go out and help someone in need. For me it has the opposite effect. I get more upset and feel so ineffective. The world needs people like you, I hope you go back. For my part, I'll be cheering you on and helping out behind the scenes.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is up to them...but often they need a hand to hold along the way.

I agree with Clayvessel, we are already seeing greater numbers of desperate people - and more coming. (People who thought that they would never be in these type of situations.)

We have to hold on to one another right now. It can happen to any of us at any time.

Renovation Therapy said...

thank you for taking care of them, every bit helps.

Leila said...

You are a good neighbor.

Coffee Bean said...

I volunteered at a transitional home for mothers and children for a couple of years. The children amazed me. My heart broke for them and all they'd been through and had yet to go through... but most of them were still open and ready to engage. The women... sigh. That was heartbreaking to see the different situations that brought them to that place. While there were similarities a lot of the time... their stories really were unique. Sometimes I think when you serve the least of these it changes you more than it changes them. You just cannot walk away untouched. It is so hard when you wish that you could do more than you can.

Jenni said...

The choice really is up to them. We can help ease the burden a little for a while, but in the end, their success will depend upon the choice they make and how determined they are to succeed. It's painful to realize that there is only so much help you can give, and that people must ultimately make the decision on their own. Of course, I'm not just talking about homeless people. In fact, this post made me think of two people I care about, still with roofs over their heads, but feeling just as lost and hopeless for other reasons.

Whatever the situation, I think it's important to do what we can to show people that we love them and are there to help where we can. I think just the knowledge that there are people who care and that they can turn to is a ray of hope for people in desperate circumstances. Without hope, there's no desire to change or move forward. You offering just a glimmer of hope and a little understanding could make all the difference for someone.

April, you have such a wonderful, caring heart. Thank you for doing what you can to make a difference in people's lives and writing about it so that we might be inspired to do the same. I'm sure your presence was a huge blessing for these families.

jennygirltherat said...

Our community just started a Family Promise program this year. Our church hosted in February for the first time. I had the same sense of reigning in my impulse to fix everything for everybody. I have to just take a deep breath and think, what needs doing right now?
Its hard to not want to be a miracle worker.

muddywaters said...

Great post. It gave me a spiritual kick in the seat of my pants.

North Dakota Family and General Practice said...

April,Good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone. Good for you for being burdened to help the less fortunate, even if you may feel it's not enough, or there's so little that' actually up to you. You may be the only person who has really listened to that woman's story in a really long time. God bless you, and thank you for being willing to be God's hands, if even for a small task.