Rise. Speak. It’s your turn.
In the midst of all that is happening in the city of Manchester due to the housing crisis affecting many in this community, the vulnerable people of this city have suffered another life loss which has had no flashy sign , did not attract heaps of donors, but had within it a group of people who had time for themselves; Time to sit down with them to discuss their daily struggles and lend an ear, or words of encouragement when needed to help them on their next step.
Many of this team of angels in this small, poorly funded office understood firsthand what it was like to be in the shoes of the people who walked through that door daily. Thanks to this, they were able to give expert advice and encouragement to the overwhelmed and frightened person, who may not have slept well because the floor was cold and he could not find warmth. in his tent. Although they felt bad, they knew that if they reached out they would get a smile or some advice on their challenge for the day. They would not be quickly directed to places of help where they would not feel safe. It was a safe place they could rely on and they were always welcome.
New resources are being developed every day, but there are people who also need a place to go for help preparing for these resources. Most of them need help getting ID and other documents to meet the funding requirements of the aid they want to apply for. Many of these vulnerable people have long since lost their IDs, birth certificates and other documents, confirming that they once had a home and an identity. These people need extra help.
We talk a lot about developing new buildings and places to help those who are homeless in the belief that this will help solve the problem of homelessness. Undoubtedly, this will be a big step forward to help improve the situation. What we don’t talk about are the issues faced by these people, who are currently homeless and need help. There are plenty of orders for blankets, warm clothes, and other necessities that will help keep them warm while they live outdoors in transition. It’s necessary. However, there is also the need for the social, emotional and life-affirming acts of being able to connect privately with another human being for advice or direction in a private place where you can feel safe. , if only for a while. A place to feel human with a name and people who care about your story. Let’s take a look at a morning in the life of “Henry”.
Henry rolls over in his sleeping bag. The ground was so cold last night that his whole body and bones ached. It hurts to move, but he has to go outside to find a place to go to the bathroom. Since finding an out of the way place for his camp, he is able to easily find a place away from his tent to do his business. Since he has no money for luxuries like toilet paper, he has to clean himself as best he can with leaves, grass, or other objects he finds nearby. After that he will make a fire (prohibited by firefighters) which will hopefully help him warm up a bit; hopefully the matches he was able to buy at Dollar Tree weren’t too damp in the light. Maybe he will consider going to an agency across town for help getting his birth certificate. He lost it long ago, when his backpack was stolen from another camp where he once lived. He finds it better, safer to live alone. He is so sore and the trek with a sore body seems so far away. How will the “agency” help him today? Best to stay close to home as there are nice groups of people from churches or the homeless outreach team who will bring other needed items. He has to survive another day and could use a new pair of socks, it was so cold last night. Many of these people talk about hope in Jesus or try to get him to try a local shelter. He tried a local shelter once and was turned away because he had a record. Something happened in the past; although he has deep regrets about it, he cannot change what happened and it seems to limit his options for a safe haven. He doesn’t tell visiting church members about it because it’s so shameful and he’s worried they won’t bring food or talk to him like a person anymore.
The hike to town is tough. The people he sees look away and are afraid that he will ask for money. He did before he saw you, because a bottle of wine will help make the nights a little easier to pass. The nights are so long in his camp. Every day is long. A long time ago he took medicine for seizures. He hasn’t been able to take them for a while because the journey to get his medicine is so difficult. He knows he needs help, but there are so many aspects of his daily life that he just can’t keep straight. There was a place in town where he knew there were people who would help him sort things out. The last time he visited their house, the door was locked and there were signs all over the door. He thinks this means they are no longer open for help. He can’t read because he never got to learn in school, some kind of learning disability they said. Her parents were busy and couldn’t help her through it because they too struggled every day to make sure they had a home and food on the table.
There are many people like “Henry” and families who need support to find a way to a place they can call home. We have housing awareness teams, churches, and other well-meaning groups offering support to people currently living in transition. At one point, the city had an intermediary who met these vulnerable people where they were in a place where they felt safe and validated to plot their next step, no matter how small. We need another Housing Resource Center to help them navigate their way to the new opportunities that are growing every day.
I found myself sitting across from one of these vulnerable people at a soup and prayer gathering that is held weekly at my church. The church I attend continually does a lot of evangelism to welcome and help our homeless neighbors. What I saw that night is that these efforts are not enough. This homeless neighbor was visibly exhausted, not on drugs. He was exhausted from the life he was leading and fell asleep in his bowl of soup. At some point, I would have referred him to the Housing Resource Center because I knew they would help him navigate his way to shelter. Because he was in front of me, I knew the programs he could have been eligible for and the path he would have to take to access this housing assistance. Maybe it would have worked, maybe not, but at one time it existed. Since this housing resource center is no longer accessible for this purpose, I couldn’t think of this as an option. At that point, I became very saddened and sad that the resource center did not receive the help it needed to help people like “Henry”.
As we look for funding to keep people in their homes and develop new ones, we also need a place with caring people who can help those in need with the paperwork for housing. The path is long and difficult. In Manchester there are agency teams with services to deal with specific issues and there are so many people in need, with many needs. For those working to provide relief, every day at work is a long, hard day. The only way to get through each “deal” presented is to focus on the current need and get all the information necessary to meet that need. This means that they are not always able to hear about other challenges from those people who seek help. We had a place that was able to do that at one point; however, it no longer exists. If a community member develops another housing resource center, we need to find ways to fund it. There are so many like “Henry” who need this support.