Issues of homelessness have been personal for me. A ward of the court at 14. Burnt my way through 3 foster homes by 16. Homeless on and off for several years. Another couple years going through then working at the drug rehab center, Teen challenge. Many an especially frigid or stormy night intrudes my thoughts for those who are attempting to survive on the streets.
Ironically, much of the same resilience and many of the same types of resources are required when one goes camping… except the later is considered a vacation whereas the former is a lifestyle with very limited resources and fewer options. In an aim to encourage you to consider supporting and aiding the homeless in your locale, I will share a couple of my experiences over the last couple years working with our homeless population.
- Small Beginnings: THANKS to all who graciously donated to CareCom this week. We surpassed the $600 goal.. because of you all, over 100 homeless men and women in Nashville and Memphis will have CarePaks filled with delicious food.
- Ramping Up: A wonderful, purposeful Thanksgiving week event as we joined together to prepare 500 CarePaks for the homeless. Many family members were able to join in; adults and children alike. Everyone worked hard, completing all the packing in less than 4 hours. We all had a lot of fun though. A job well done followed by a lovely common meal and short meeting of the newly formed Board of Directors, facilitated by our Chair: Gabrielle Thompson.
- On the Streets: Having worked in the downtown area of Nashville for several years, I was well acquainted of a small park wherein the homeless gather amidst the hustle and bustle of working passersby. After parking at the nearby downtown YMCA, I loaded by backpack with a dozen CarePaks and a case of water; hiked down to the park and took my perch on one of the many benches. It didn’t take long for the them to figure out my mission. Soon I had distributed the contents of my backpack and made a return trip to Jeep at the Y for a refill. Within about an hour or so, I had handed out two dozen CarePaks. We always exchanged first names occasionally accompanied by a short exchange. Impressions: I was surprised by the number of homeless women on the street. I think it it is much harder for them than it is for the men. Virtually all recipients were receptive and grateful. The homeless folks I ran into ranged from extremely engaging and articulate to dissociative and rambling. Overall, I was impacted anew by the shear number of indigent among us; especially at a time wherein we, as a nation, are experiencing relative prosperity and low unemployment.
- Christmas: Christmas is about Love. Incarnated. I just saw a wonderful example of that as I was passing out CarePaks to the homeless under the Jefferson bridge Downtown Nashville. A happy couple dressed in color coordinated outfits gratefully picked up a Carepak each… they were visibly filled with joy and peace. He had Christmas music playing on some portable device; “All I want for Christmas is you”. They strolled about 20’ distance, stopped, looked into each other’s eyes and gave each other the sweetest, most endearing kiss. What a wonder. It was an inspiration to see. Regardless of circumstances, where love is, there is light. God dwells there and makes it Holy ground. I’m grateful to have witnessed Love, grace and holiness this Christmas, under the Jefferson bridge with the Homeless.
- Thanksgiving: It’s been over a year since I’ve last posted about CareCom and our work with the Homeless. We’ve been busy though.
As you can imagine, it has been particularly challenging for the homeless during Covid. Many churches and nonprofits have no longer been able to conduct their usual relief efforts. Consequently, while needs have escalated, sources of help have diminished. In May, I began volunteering weekly at the Contributor (Local Homeless Newspaper) and largely distributed CarePaks through that venue. We also partnered with the Salvation Army for direct distribution to the Homeless camps. The reoccurring encounters with Contributors homeless vendors week after week has been both educational and inspiring. CarePaks have become a real favorite. The contents of our CarePaks became streamlined, healthier and cost effective (closer to $4 per pack versus $7). Packing became a little more laborious and solitary as we lugged large Amazon and Sams Club boxes to and from our houseboat. So, here’s a brief, informal recap. Over the past year, we have purchased, packed and distributed over 3,000 additional CarePaks! 3,678 to be exact. In addition, we purchased 120 pairs of gloves, 120 thermal socks and 1,200 pairs of hand warmers.A Sad Farewell: 2020 saw over 100 homeless pass away in Nashville. We live in a country of abundance. Most of us live in relative abundance and plenty. Apathy is a plague that is all too easily inches its way into our hearts. Here is the list of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who lost their lives on the streets that year. Please consider volunteering, giving, praying… living consciously.