A News & Record article about homeless camps in the path of the Downtown Greenway elicited the usual negative comments about homeless people. One of those who responded with truth (and grace) was a friend of mine, who’s been homeless in the past. The only experts on homelessness are people who’ve been homeless. His comment was worth blogging:
As one who has been homeless, I can truly understand just how complex this issue really is. I do not get upset with those who make disparaging remarks about the homeless, not do I blame them, because it is in ignorance that most comments are made. Not only have I been homeless, I also grew up middle class, attended a private school for 12 years, and the product of a wonderful, loving and well-educated family. My father has a doctorate! I am far from what many would thing of a homeless person, but nonetheless, I ended up there. If it were not for people like those involved with StreetWatch (of whom most I know very personally), the local church and a minority of extremely loving people who were willing to look past ignorance and prejudice and into the life of a wounded and hurting person, I might still be homeless.
image credit: Audrie Keen, StreetWatch
I never chose to be homeless. It was never an issue of choice. Like many of our friends it was due to struggles with addiction and mental illness that led me there, neither of which I just randomly chose, but both of which contributed greatly to my homelessness. However, people who loved God also loved me. Men invested in me and many never gave up on me. My last homeless episode was probably 4 years ago, honestly, I have lost count. But I have a sensitivity to the issue because I have been there and done that as they say.
No one can truly comprehend what these men and women feel until they have been there. The bottom line is that NO MATTER WHAT THE CAUSE IS FOR THEIR HOMELESSNESS THEY ARE STILL VERY PRECIOUS MEN AND WOMEN WHO ALSO DESERVE MULTIPLE CHANCES IN LIFE. For those who attack them as being there by choice, why not be a part of the solution and build relationships with these beautiful people in a way that helps them prevent making poor choices in the future. My mental illness issues were not my choice yet I am so thankful that people loved me enough to help me see my way through all of that so that I could be able to be successful in my life today.
It is so easy to sit back and attempt to make ourselves feel better by looking down on those less fortunate, but that is 100% indicative of a tremendous lack of self esteem on that “down looker”. A person with a true and healthy sense of self will see themselves as a recipient of grace and recognize that because they are in a better position that they can THEN reach down to others rather than look down at others. A healthy sense of self is one that seeks to meet the needs of and build relationships with, those who are less fortunate.
Please do not just take shots at these men and women if you have never been there or been a part of their lives. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Look for chances to help. Stop sitting in the back row and talking trash about people you don’t even know and get out on the front line. Do not contribute to the problem but be the better person as you are a part of the solution. Love people! A person who cannot love others has no real love for self. Please, these are wonderful men and women. I know most of them well, have had some of them live with me and I would not take all the money in the world in exchange for the lessons that I have learned from them!
Thanks, my friend, for your words, your wisdom, your grace and your heart.