Complexities of Homelessness
This morning as I walked into church we already had a line of people waiting outside the door. They weren’t waiting to get into a service; they were waiting for bus tickets and a five dollar bill. For years our church has handed out bus tickets and five dollar bills on the first and fifteenth of each month. We also have a food bank that is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Homelessness and poverty is something that is right on our doorstep every day. We can’t hide from it. Our church is just a block from Colfax Avenue which is a thoroughfare for the homeless in the Denver metro area.
How do we help the homeless and those living in poverty right here in our cities?
This past week we heard the story of NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo buying boots for Jeffrey Hillman who is homeless (see picture above). It’s just the type of story we love to hear over the holidays. But then this morning I read that Hillman was found this weekend barefoot again. It turns out that the boots are hidden because they are expensive and Hillman fears for his life if he wears them.
Helping the homeless is full of complexities. I don’t fault DePrimo for buying Hillman boots but was that really what he needed? This time of the year we hear many stories of generous folks giving to those in need. We should applaud that but at the same time I wonder what difference it really makes.
What we really need is more folks to take the harder path of walking alongside the homeless and those in need throughout the whole year.
It is a frustrating path and one that can get pretty discouraging. It’s much easier to give a one time gift.
At our church we are exploring how we can better walk alongside those in poverty and living homeless. We are stopping to give out five dollars twice a month and will be using the money for specific needs that we hear about. We want to make sure the money is going for something that will help someone in the long run.
Our dream is to start social entrepreneurship ventures that will create jobs and train folks in specific skills. There are some great models for ventures like this right here in the Denver metro area like Belay Enterprises. People in the West Colfax corridor need job options that will provide the training and patience they need as they turn their lives around. It isn’t an easy task but through walking alongside people in poverty we can give hope when it’s needed most.
It all starts with a relationship.