Updated: May 15
Nationwide, our homelessness numbers are rising and here in California it appears that is becoming the epicenter for homelessness. Driving through LA County and seeing firsthand the growth of this issue has become heartbreaking and near paralyzing. The question that is always asked, “What can be done?” has evolved and is now, “Can anything be done?” Well, I am one that feels as if there is plenty to do, and something must be done soon.
There is a false perception concerning homelessness that usually revolves around drug and mental health issues. While drugs and mental health are prevalent amongst many homeless communities, you would be surprised to discover that many are homeless not because of drugs and alcohol, not because of mental health issues, but because of circumstances. Yes, some are literally homeless because of circumstances beyond their control. Recently I sat in a symposium with the goal of better understanding the homeless situation in our valley. To my surprise, a lead journalist told of her story, how prior to this season she was homeless herself. She worked a 40-hour work week and yet couldn’t afford rent in her neighborhood and therefore was forced to sleep in her vehicle.
What an eye opener. As a ministry leader I have served with our team for nearly a decade. To date we have served more than 10,000 meals to our homeless population and the truth is, they are just as diverse as any other segment or population amongst us. Sure, some are drug addicted, and yes, others have mental health issues. However, there is a large portion that can’t afford housing, don’t have family, and believe It or not, actually prefer to be homeless.
What can we do? Remain compassionate. Many are one decision (that could be made by someone else) from having all of their resources depleted. The emergency shutdown of businesses in our nation recently should give us a little insight to just how fragile our individual economies can be. Compassion is necessary because those that are homeless now may already feel as if hope is gone. Imagine being the reason a homeless person, who has been seemingly defeated by circumstances, suddenly begins to believe again. Imagine showing humanity as opposed to looking down in disdain. Imagine offering a hand up (not necessarily a handout) and being the bridge that gets someone back on their feet.
I am one who searched for solutions. Harboring on the problem does nothing in terms of seeking answers, so that’s my mission. Our church has recently been in the regional spotlight for our pledge to utilize an acre of our land to build a temporary homeless shelter and offer affordable housing. After meeting with State and Local officials, we realize that this vision can become reality. I do understand that we may not heal homelessness around the nation, but we can impact the problem here in our own backyard. Here’s the challenge: In your own community, something can be done…the question is, “Are you willing to help?”