“According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 554,000 homeless people living somewhere in the United States on a given night last year. A total of 193,000 of those people were "unsheltered," meaning that they were living on the streets and had no access to emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens. Despite a booming stock market and strong economic growth, a large swathe of America is still struggling to make ends meet.”
LET’S START SMALL
Something must give. The housing system here in the US is at the brink of collapse. When you mix inflation with rising housing costs, low wages, rising food and fuel prices, and a lack of employment opportunities (in many areas), you create the perfect storm for a rise in homelessness.
In my own community and region, we have seen the numbers of those without shelter rise seemingly exponentially. Even more disheartening is that because of the extreme weather conditions we experience in the summer and winter months, we often see men and women sleeping outdoors amongst temperatures as high as 120 degrees in the summer, and the 20’s in the winter months. It is my firm belief that everyone deserves shelter. I know we freely throw around terms like “human rights” as talking points, but I would think that we can all agree that involuntary homelessness is not acceptable.
We have a mandate, especially those of the faith. In Matthew 25 Jesus instructed us to care for the least of them (a societal reference), and somehow, we have missed the mark. People sleeping in cars, homeless young students, hardworking people unable to afford rental rates, where does it end? There must be a clarion call for compassion. For healing to manifest, greed must take a backseat to compassion and agendas must not be allowed to obscure the lens by which we observe and care for humanity.
You would be surprised how far a small gesture can go. Recently I stopped near a homeless encampment and asked those inhabiting if there was a need. Obviously, I was anticipating an appeal for what was in my wallet, but I was pleasantly surprised. 7 people all answered the same way, asking for toilet tissue. I was floored. I went into the neighboring Walmart and spent $25 on toilet tissue and when I delivered the rolls, they were all enthusiastically grateful.
I write this, not to glorify myself but to encourage us to consider the impact that small gestures can have. I believe the reason we have yet to find a solution for homelessness is because we have approached it from a large scale, looking to land the big fish and launch the massive homeless resource center. While that is the long-term goal, my question is … What if we focused our efforts on short term, smaller scale endeavors? Imagine the numbers of those without homes that need toilet paper, hygiene kits, blankets, water, the essentials. Maybe we have missed opportunities to make greater impacts because we fail to grasp the need for addressing the small things.
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8