I'm back from visiting two different homeless "camps" - where the homeless live. They were not there - it's not a good idea to visit with a group when they are there because they get nervous thinking that we will take their stuff.
It was an eye-opening experience. I've been to the shelter a number of times but have never before been to the places where the homeless stay on the "streets". Both places were located near major highways (one was on main street) and behind places of business that most of us frequent. One of the camps was just a few blocks from the home that I was at last Saturday night to speak to the Unchained group. As we visited it I wondered if that couple knew their neighbors were homeless people. Another was just a few miles from my own front door.
I had expected to see makeshift shelters but there were none. The only shelter from the weather was the bare branches of the brush and trees they huddle beneath. Broken glass littered the place as did broken toys or old mattresses. I felt a little sick to my stomach as we walked through the one camp. I can't imagine how they survive there given the cold weather we are prone to.
One man lived in his old beaten-up van behind the building where day jobs are available. I've often heard people say that homeless people are lazy and will not work and yet there was a whole camp, and a van where people live directly behind the day job place so they can ensure that they are first in line.
I learned that they often climb into the unlocked U-Haul trucks at night since their camp is behind the U-Haul place and the owner leaves the trucks unlocked at night. I also learned that they have "markers" to guard their camp from other homeless people - a sweater or piece of pastic hung from a fense or a branch is an sign to let other homeless people know that "this is my place - stay out!" I thought how like homeowners that was. They have plastic draped over a branch, we have fenses.
The lady who runs the shelter told us that just this morning a 19 year-old boy who has been living there came to her with tears in his eyes telling her that he had slipped and done heroin again after being clean for a year. He plead for help. She picked up the phone and called the treatment center only to be told it would be a 4 month wait before he could get help.
I need to do something, even if it's just showing up one night a week to serve dinner and eat with these folks. I need to get to know them, to hear their stories and to let them know someone cares. I think I need to do that in order to sleep knowing that they are braving the cold, the rain and the snow just a few miles from my front door.
I often get frustrated and saddened by the lack of care the church shows for the poor. Just last week someone asked me if they needed to care about the poor to be a Christian - because they didn't. I was shocked. I can only think (and hope) that she didn't mean that she literally didn't care. I know it is easy to turn the other way and not look at the problem of poverty even when it's a few blocks away. The problem seems overwhelming and there are so many different reasons why people are homeless that it seems impossible to really be of any help. So we look the other way, not because we don't care, but because we do but do not know what to do about it. And then we justify our uninvolvement with thoughts like, "They choose to be that way", or "They could get a job if they wanted to", or "They would just use whatever I gave them on booze". I think for me the solution isn't to solve the problem of homelessness or poverty. For me, the solution is to simply go "be" with these folks and get to know them, and perhaps one by one let Jesus work through them to change me.
I posted this link before but it's worth posting again. Click here for some truly amazing photos of homeless people along with their stories.
*Photo above is of graffiti in Hamilton, taken by my son Cody
- My passion is helping others defend themselves and their families. I am an NRA Certified pistol instructor, a NRA Chief Range Safety Officer, leader of TWAW Shooting Chapters - North Cincinnati, and the state leader of TWAW Shooting Chapters - Ohio. I also have a heart for the Lakota people and lead mission teams to the Pine Ridge Reservation each year, am founder and director of Backpacks For Pine Ridge,, and do various volunteer work in my own community. My greatest joy is being a grandma and hanging out with my husband of 30+ years.