I’ve seen a lot of posts about checking on the elderly as well as bringing your pets inside during this brutally cold snap we’re experiencing in Cincinnati this week. Obviously, I think its a good plan to take care of Aunt Mabel and Spot. Our pets bring such great joy and older folks are full of wisdom and inspiration.
But you know who else needs our help, especially in this type of below-zero cold? The homeless.
I grew up very conservative, very Republican, and very Christian. I listened to Rush Limbaugh; I even performed a speech AS him my Junior year of high school. I used to say and think things like “if they would just get a job, they wouldn’t need to suck the system dry.” I used to think homelessness was a choice.
But now that I’m working in a mental health agency in very urban Cincinnati and now that I’m older and wiser I have to tell you . . . I was wrong. Very wrong.
Sure, there are some homeless people who choose to live that way. There are some who are there because they won’t stop using drugs or won’t take their medications. And there are definitely those who abuse the system.
But I know a woman who has three children, is ex-military (just a few months shy of an honorable discharge and therefore has little to none in the way of VA benefits), who lost her job, has no car, and now has no home. The shelters are full – at least the ones that take family’s. Her parents won’t help her, her siblings can’t help her, and frankly, the system isn’t helping her. She is basically out of options unless she wants to put her kids in foster care. Yes, she’s made some bad decisions but who of us haven’t?
I know another man who lost his construction job because his car broke down and he couldn’t get to work. After 9 years on the job, they fired him for his attendance. Now he is couch surfing from family member to friend, still without a car, trying to find a job. He is homeless. He is hungry. He has some support but it’s not enough to overcome his crippling depression, which makes it a lot more difficult to get up and look for that elusive job he needs.
I wonder how many heartbeats away from homelessness I am. If I were to get sick, in a car accident, or lose my job I could be in similar circumstances. Sure, my mother would let me move into her basement in the short term. I have a million cousins and friends who would try to help. I have a great church family who would do what they could to assist me. But my whole life would change and I don’t know how easily I’d recover.
I don’t know the answer to helping the poor and homeless among us. I know that looking down on them is certainly not the answer. I know that assuming that they are all drug addicts or criminals is not the answer.
I do know that Jesus said we should care for the poor and the sick. Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'” That’s pretty powerful stuff right there.
So, while we’re making sure Grandma is warm and the dogs and cats are cared for, let’s do what we can for our poor and homeless this winter. Whatever that looks like. Let’s not forget about the least of our brothers and sisters.
Here are a just a handful of links of people who you might considering helping to help others: