Do You Think You Know Who “Homeless People” Are?
Do you think, like so many people do, that they are lazy, drug addicted, mentally ill, just not trying hard enough? Or do you believe any of the other very common misconceptions that many people have about our brothers and sisters struggling with housing insecurity and/or living on the streets?
Our hope is that this story shows you a different side of homelessness and perhaps makes you think about this issue in a different way.
Over the past week, Harvest912 has held two footcare clinics and we’ve met, among others:
- A Vietnam veteran with not one, but two, Bronze Stars
- Another vet who was shot in the leg while serving in Kuwait. He struggled to walk on the bus but had a huge smile on his face as he sang along with the country songs on the radio
- Yet another veteran who shared stories about her navy service and her hopes for the future after she gets back on her feet
- A 45-year-old man who has been living on the streets since age 9 and is now 5 years sober
- A man who was released from prison 5 days ago after serving 20 years and is now trying hard to re-enter a world that he barely recognizes.
Most of our guests have histories and stories like these, yet a young man named Ashton left an indelible impression on us. Ashton had been living on the street and had just that day found temporary housing. He was on his way to apply for a job when he saw the bus parked for a clinic. Although he had not signed up in advance, he asked us if he could participate as he was in dire need of boots for the job he hoped to get. We put him on the standby list and asked him to circle back at the end of the clinic – if we had slots open we would be happy to get him in. Ashton came back a bit later and patiently sat waiting for over an hour. Like many of our guests, he was exhausted and fell asleep for a while. By the time we were able to see him at the end of the clinic, most of our volunteers had left and only Tad, myself and one of our clinicians were still there. We invited him onboard and at first he was reluctant to have his feet washed and examined (as are many of our guests) saying he was embarrassed to have someone look at his feet. But he eventually allowed me to wash his feet. I promised not to tickle…too much…which got a smile from him and then Mary completed her exam and did some basic care. As Tad started to put lotion on his feet, fit him for boots, and put his backpack together, he asked “why are you doing all this for me?” Tad replied simply, “this is what we do…you matter, brother.” At that point, Ashton put his head in his hands and broke down weeping. “No one has ever done anything like this for me before”, he stammered. Tad gently said, “you need all this for your new job, right? Can we pray together?” They joined hands and asked for God’s blessings. Ashton made his way off the bus with hugs all around and with, perhaps, a bit more hope than he had come in with.
Do you still think you know who ‘homeless people’ are?