Friday, April 25, 2008

Homeless Ministry

When Jason & I moved to NYC, one of the things we very much wanted to be part of was some way of assisting the very large homeless population here that we encounter on a daily basis. I think we envisioned providing hands-on assistance at a soup kitchen or shelter -- a somewhat controlled environment. What we envision vs. what actually happens are always comic relief.

We are blessed to be part of a church that has a monthly homeless ministry. We became involved last October with a small band who meet up one Saturday a month to make 36 nice brown bag lunches and care packages that contain a variety of items like socks, toothe paste, a sweatshirt (in the winter) and an invite to our church. After packaging these things together, we put them into a cart and walk down to Penn Station to hunt for the homeless that live in and around the station.

Jason & I usually stick together - we grab 5 - 6 bags each and start wandering through the station. Eyeing people and trying to decide --- "are they homeless or do they just look homeless??" If we decide "yes!" then one of us approaches and attempts to pawn our bag of goodies off on them.

For both of us, the approach is one of the most difficult things - it's a complete wildcard on how the person might respond...some people curse you, others bless you and chat with you for a while about their situation and we might even have the opportunity to pray with them, others ignore you or look through the bag and ask for $$ instead ... this weekend I had yet another response to my offering ... I noticed the man I was speaking to was digging around in the front of his pants and before I had a chance to act, I felt urine splashing onto my leg as he relieved himself on the trash can that we were standing next to!

You just never know, do you?


Kim said...

Oh my goodness! I don't know whether to gasp or to laugh - I kind of just did both at the same time! What a great ministry to be a part of, even though sometimes it's not the cleanest...

Molly W. said...

You guys are really great. Neat thing to do. Sorry about the pee though -yikes!!

Will said...

That's awesome! :) I meant the ministry, not the dude trying to pee on ya.

Even if they curse you (or try peeing on you), it's still good that they're being acknowledged. When people ask for money all day, they usually get the cold shoulder and slowly become desensitized bit by bit.

Don't give them money! The people that you can help are the ones that are grateful for those bags of food/items. The ones that only want money are the ones that are alcoholics / druggies and one of the worst things we can do is keep feeding that addiction.

If they need anything, have them call 211 and say they need a homeless shelter or a place for food; it's a national human services reference. They should be able to direct them. I tried it before to test it out, call 211 and pretend like you're homeless and see if they actually direct you to a place.

You guys and your church are awesome for doing this =)