Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Homeless (Advocating for the Vulnerable #2)

Dear friends,

I had seen her before in the grocery store, her boyfriend pushing the wheelchair.

Now she is attempting to cross a busy street by herself, propelling herself with one leg.  She is not wearing her prosthetic leg, necessary after a childhood amputation.  One arm is in a brace, has been ever since I've seen her.  It is hurting her badly.  She has vision problems, a scar over an eye.  And I worry as I pull up in my van that she is going to get hit if she doesn't get to the other side fast.  I lean out the window.  "Do you want me to push you?"  She nods.

I pull over to the nearest parking lot, jump out, look both ways, run cattycorner to where she has made it to the opposite curb but can't get up the wheelchair cut.  Her purse is on the ground.  She can't reach it.  "Where do you want to go?"  The bus stop, another 20 or 30 yards. I lift her purse onto her lap, grab the chair handles and off we go.  

She asks, "Why are you doing this?"  That's easy: because people have been so kind to me, and Jesus loves us all.  We chat for a few minutes.   She is homeless, lives near downtown with a bunch of others next to a McDonalds.  She used to have a good job.  That must have been before her car accident.  "It's so hard to ask for help!" she replies when I ask if she has been to any of the shelters, but adds that a lady is helping her file for Medicaid. I tell her that next time I see her, I'll give her some information about resources for the homeless and disabled in our area.

I ask if she would like me to pray for her.  She grabs my hand, leans her head against my arms.  I offer a simple prayer for protection and provision and that she would know how much she is loved.

"Just leave me here under the palm tree.  I'll be fine."

It was just 10 minutes on the way to an appointment with one of my kids.

It was just opening my eyes and pushing a chair and speaking kindness and prayer and dignity.  Not much else I could do right then, but little bits count.

Now it's time to gather my resource list.  I'll start with what I already compiled here last March: Food, Health, Jobs, and Family Crisis Assistance Resources in Central Florida

My four adult daughters have all been involved in homeless ministry at some point, one even organizing a clothing and blanket drive and then driving down to bless over 50 people on a cold January night with their haul, others participating in public feedings downtown.  My nursing student daughter reminds me that many homeless people also struggle with mental illness and addiction issues.  Another daughter's Disney coworker/friend was murdered in his apartment by a family he had taken in.  There is a time for caution.  But it is also a time for prudent compassion.  It doesn't take much to fill some gallon size zip lock bags with nutritious snacks to hand someone who is living on the streets.  Homeless folks live in the woods less than a mile from our home.  I'm not going to set foot in their makeshift camp, but I still encounter them other places and no one has ever turned me down when I've offered them a little something to eat.  Sometimes it's a quick trip through the Wendy's drive-through and doubling back around to the bench where they sit.

What are ways you reach out to the homeless?

This post is the second in my Advocating for the Vulnerable series.  

The other posts: 

(By coincidence, the sweet homeless lady in this post was in the grocery store when the elder abuse story took place, though she may not have heard the conversation.)

Virginia Knowles

"The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’" Matthew 25:40

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 

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