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The Faces of Homelessness – A Former Homeless Man Returns Thanks to Giver

It used to be that so called “respectable” people avoided homeless people, believing that they were responsible for their own plight and should not be given a handout.

This detached attitude may be somewhat understandable, if someone has never put themself into a position to actually hear the story of a homeless person, to look into their eyes and see them as fellow human beings, suffering in a world of pain.

My experience at Hope Outreach Together is that there is no one stereotype of a homeless person. On Monday mornings, at the corner of Quartz Hill and Benton in Redding I see:

  • A woman whose face, arms and visible upper body has been tragically disfigured by a fire;
  • A well groomed woman, about 40 years old with a 12 year old daughter – forced to leave her apartment in a remote northern California mountain community because she could not find work, was out of money and her family would not help – she just spent her last savings for group shelter/food and was facing immediate homelessness that week for the first time;
  • People with severe, chronic medical problems that have no medical insurance and their medical bills have made them homeless;
  • A woman in a wheelchair with an amputated foot;
  • Veterans who no longer fit into society;
  • People with emotional or mental problems;
  • More men than women, but a few couples with an infant;
Gregg Churchill passed on this story to me about his experience this past Monday with a former homeless man:

“It’s Monday morning and I am standing behind the food cart, dishing up soup as part of the Hope Outreach Together team.  Off to the side a voice speaks my name.  As I turn, a homeless man in his mid 30’s steps forward.  Last spring he was a regular Monday customer.  Paroled in April and in good health, he’d come to the Hope Van to get some direction from the social worker there.  We’d met at the Hope Outreach food cart.  Numerous conversations had followed.  But  I hadn’t seen him in several months.”

“Want some soup?,” I asked.

“He replied, ‘No thanks’.  I just wanted to let you know I’m off the street and in an apartment now, enrolled full time at Shasta College.  Your being here helped.”

Yes, among the homeless there are also drug or alcohol abusers and people who have been in trouble with the law – they too are finding it extremely difficult to manage. But we don’t see those people who stand at the corner of Costco who play on people’s sympathy and are “working the system” to avoid work.

Every Monday we are heartened by those we have come to know personally who have struggled to rehabilitate themselves and are now trying to help other homeless people get off the street and back on their feet. They know we are there to help them and they appreciate it. They want to help us set up and take down canopies, tables and storage bins for donated warm clothing, socks, tarps and sleeping bags.

Hope Outreach Together offers hope and help to 50-65 homeless people every Monday morning at Caldwell Park, where the medical Hope Outreach van also parks. If you are just curious, would like to learn more or perhaps even get involved in this non-denominational compassion ministry, stop by Monday mornings between 8:30-10:30 AM.

Their strength of human spirit to carry on in spite of severe adversity, gives me hope.