Would You Pick Me Up, Dust Me Off, and Walk with Me?

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Our society gives a lot of respect to people who are successful and self-made, especially if they have accomplished something we hope to do in the future. They’ve arrived. For instance, I have a lot of respect for people who are well-known, talented writers. My initial thought is to idolize their success and drive, thinking of them as independent. That’s the American dream, right? There’s been a contrary truth tugging at the back of my mind. They didn’t get there on their own. Young or old, rich or poor, we all have someone who helped us get where we are, whether they helped physically, or through prayer and encouragement.

Why then is it so easy to look down on people when they need help?

I wouldn’t dream of making this statement, except that my gut reaction at times has been to feel this way towards a person or situation. It’s easy to respect someone once they’ve been picked up and dusted off and are standing on their own; it isn’t so easy when someone is sitting in the dirt without the heart to rise again by themselves.

Who picked you up?

Remember the most difficult time in your life? I hope you had someone there to help you, to pick you up. I know I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without the unconditional love and help my friends and family offer, every time. Did I even deserve their help?

What if they weren’t there?

As you think back, on that challenging time, what if you had been without a home, and without those people who love you unconditionally? What if those people who were supposed to love you… didn’t? I was told by a homeless woman recently that she feels uncomfortable walking across the street outside of shelters. “People always look at me funny, like I’m an alien,” she explained, sounding embarrassed. The same woman feels afraid to tell her small and scattered family where she is for fear or the shame and stigma associated with homelessness. This woman is hurting; she needs someone to pick her up, help her dust herself off and walk with her.

Does everyone deserve your help?

Another thought that I admit, has often crossed my mind is “does this person deserve my help?” It is easy to think to ourselves, “I could help this homeless man, but he honestly shouldn’t need my help. He should be self-sufficient, he should be independent.” Then that same thought creeps in of whether or not they deserve help, I mean, what if they’re dishonest? Based on the world’s standards of deserving people, maybe they don’t deserve your help. The world says people aren’t deserving unless they’re responsible, talented, promising, and they don’t make mistakes. Who does that even describe? Surely not me.

Open hands to our brothers and sisters

Deuteronomy 15:11 says “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'”Help Each Other

We don’t open wide our hands to the worthy, to those who have earned it, or to those who seem to deserve our respect. We open wide our hands to our brothers and sisters, worthy and “unworthy,” our brothers and sisters include every homeless individual you pass on your way to work, the person who made your coffee this morning, and your boss. I wanted to share with you an incredibly important quote from one of our recovery program graduates:

“I remember at the Mission, they didn’t look at me in my unworthiness, they looked at me, and they loved me. And that made me want to do better, and made me want to continue to love Jesus and build my life for him.”

The next time someone needs help, don’t be afraid of whether or not they deserve it, just help. It could be the first time that person has received so much kindness, and it might help them stand back up and turn their life around.

Fear of the Unknown – Why Homeless People Avoid Shelters

Help the Homeless

So often, I am asked the question, “Why do homeless people stay on the streets instead of going to a shelter?” I thought I had a quick answer, “they don’t like the rules at shelters!” But I think there’s more to it than that.

What if they’re more afraid of shelters than the elements?

After all, you can know what to expect from the weather. It’s going to get hot, it’s going to rain, it will be windy, and it will get freezing. A statistic published by the National Coalition for the Homeless stated that “Each year, about 700 homeless people die from hypothermia,” and tons more are suffering from frostbite. If people on the streets are aware of this risk, why are they still sleeping in the cold?

Because they can live with the fear of not waking up, but can’t handle the fear of the unknown.

We’re all that way. We stay in jobs we don’t like, live in towns just because that’s where we live. Sometimes, like this example of staying in the freezing cold, we allow ourselves to stay in a dangerous situation because in some strange way, it’s more comfortable than the unknown. You know you have made decisions based on this paradigm.

When you add substance abuse, mental illness and the heavy emotional strife that comes with homelessness, the likelihood of making a comfortable decision instead of a good one shoots up. Previous experience can also inhibit good decisions. We all have fears built from past experiences. PTSD can cause a person to be easily overwhelmed, easily frightened and in this case, afraid of living in an enclosed place with people they don’t know. In an interview conducted by Boise State Public Radio, a gentleman shared his story of being homeless.

In his words, “All I can say is that my fear of the unknown, of what might be waiting for me at that shelter, was worse than my fear of the known risk, you know, of staying out on the street. That was where I was comfortable. And I think people, we’re creatures of habit. We get comfortable in the most uncomfortable positions, and that just becomes home.”

So many have heard horror stories about shelters being unsafe, bug infested and filled with drugs. If they can stay on the streets, at least they are in control, right?

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I would never have come here on my own, but it’s changed my life. I’m not afraid anymore.

I want to challenge you by first repeating myself.

700 homeless people died here in America, just from the cold weather. Imagine the lives claimed by heat and exposure, too! There is something you can do about it. Become truly educated on the shelters in your area. Visit City Light shelter for women and children, visit Lighthouse Men’s Shelter, and when you do invite someone in from the streets to go to a shelter, you can tell them with confidence that it’s a safe, welcoming place to stay. I recently visited City Light, and I can’t tell you how safe and welcome I felt. From the moment I walked in the door, there was peace, joy, and comfort, whether I was in the warm sitting area, or the sunny study room upstairs.

For some homeless individuals, they truly have chosen their lifestyle and don’t desire change. But for others, it is a matter of fear. Fear of the unknown, and that’s a fear we can all empathize with.

As you see homeless people on the street, avoid assuming they’re there because of laziness or because they simply won’t follow rules. Remember your compassion, and remember that everyone has a unique story.

This winter, this summer, any day of the year, please kindly invite homeless men, women, and children into the local shelters, and give them the encouragement they need to feel safe doing so. This isn’t an easy transition for anyone, so if you have the opportunity to build a friendship with a homeless person, go with them to the shelter, further alleviating the apprehension they hold. It is individuals like you who bring about individual change, and that person’s transformation could go on to change Boise for the better.

7 Common Misconceptions about the Homeless

Help the Homeless

When you spend any amount of time working or volunteering at the Rescue Mission, you start to see that some common myths about the homeless men, women, and children in our community are quickly debunked. I’d like to share these with you, and hopefully shed some light on 7 of these common misconceptions.

  1. “These people eat better than I do!

Your generosity allows the Mission to provide meals for homeless individuals. Our cooks may get a donation of 30 cans of green beans, spaghetti sauce, and some onions. You bet they’re up for the challenge of making a meal from what they have – just like you do at home when you want to use up what’s left from your last trip to the grocery store.

  1. They Are Unemployed

So many of the guests and programmers at our shelters are employed, and they are striving to save money in pursuit of their own apartment and other personal goals. Staying in a shelter allows them to sleep well and have a good meal in preparation for the next workday.

  1. They are Lazy

Laziness: the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy; idleness.

Homeless individuals are a lot of things, but lazy is not one of them. Whether they have fallen on hard times or choose to be homeless, they are on their feet all day, sleeping is nearly impossible due to weather, disturbances and the fear of having their belongings stolen at any moment, and nothing is ‘easy.’

  1. They are Uneducated

Once I walked into one of our Nampa shelters, and there was one homeless gentleman eating lunch. I began talking to one of the staff, and suddenly I heard someone playing jazz piano. After talking with him, I found that the gentleman, who was homeless, not only had a beautiful talent on the piano, but also had a Masters degree in Marketing.

  1. There Aren’t Homeless Children in America

It is heartbreaking to tell you, but this simply isn’t true. Mothers and fathers become homeless, and along with them, their children. These children are of all ages, and some parents make the decision to live on the streets or in areas like Tent City, rather than stay in a shelter and recover from homelessness.

  1. There is No Room for Them

I was talking to a friend yesterday, and she told me she always drives past places like Tent City and wonders, “is there really no room in shelters for those individuals?” “Surely there’s room somewhere in Boise!” There is room! Quite a bit, in fact. The disconnect is that some homeless individuals do choose to stay out in the weather, often due to a disliking of rules that accompany staying in a shelter.

  1. They are Not Valuable Members of Our Community

This is a tough one. If someone lives on the street and only has the ability to take, not give, how do they contribute to the community? They don’t. Not yet. But they have so much potential to do so. They might even have more potential than most. Should they overcome homelessness, maybe at the same time overcoming a life-controlling issue, they have experience and a testimony that can change lives.

Hopefully, you learned as much from reading this blog as I did from writing it, and I hope it has inspired a new way of thinking about the homeless individuals in our community.