As a way to continue the conversations in The Biola Hour, we've invited Becky Mitchell to blog her thoughts after each episode. This is a response to Episode 41 on compassion and homelessness. Feel free to interact with Becky's thoughts in the comments below.
The face. The story we presume to understand. The thought comes, “Will they use this money to buy drugs or alcohol?” They is a person experiencing homelessness. The street sidewalk is this individual’s front porch, as I once heard it said. The streets have become a sought place of refuge for this individual, but what kind of refuge is a street? Is it one of “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble?” Is it one of “something providing shelter?”
As the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission in Downtown Los Angeles, Andy Bales shared of the 40,000 individuals on the streets of LA. Of the thousands of sex traffickers in the zipcode near the Mission. Of only one out of 15 tents for the protection and shelter of people being put up in a year. Of homelessness as an epidemic.
When I was a kid, my sisters and I would build forts in the living room. All of our fun activities, toys and even food would come into the fort with us. This was where we chose to temporarily live. At the end of the fun we—or maybe more accurately my mom—put everything away and again we had our comfortable living room.
What must it be like to live on the street surrounded by human feces without a public park letting you shower in the provided facilities? What must it be like to lie awake at night as the temperatures drop fearing you will be beaten or raped? I do not know. My privilege means I have been surrounded by bedroom walls and a roof. My privilege means I have blankets to the abundance of sweating at night. But I did nothing to earn these privileges.
The privileges of an individual experiencing homelessness have been stripped, or maybe never existed in the first place. I cannot tell you the story of every human experiencing homelessness because there is more than one human so there is more than one story. But, I can tell you the problem of homelessness is not the fault of the person experiencing homelessness. I challenge each one of us to talk to individuals experiencing homelessness, not just handing them money or avoiding looking at their face.
So, my Christian friend I ask you the same question I ask myself, what will you do to show the love of Jesus to those experiencing homelessness?