Thursday, August 29, 2013
Any Mission staff person will tell you that it is a blessing to speak with our "Fellow Rescuers" whose gifts, prayers, and volunteer efforts support the ministry of Rescue. However, I can still be surprised by things that are said to me when I represent the Mission at various events.
Recently, as I waited by our display at an event, I was approached by an older person who is a member of an organization that has supported the Mission for many years. While I did not recognize this gentleman, I was pleased that he'd stopped by to talk while so many walked on by without a word.
He mentioned the organization of which he is a part and made further comments about the Mission, which showed he knew something of our history. I shared with him the number of those we're serving now, 142 every night, and expressed that was a definitely an increase from how many we served even a few years ago.
He nodded and said, "Well, I know most of them want to be homeless, but they still need help."
I must admit I found myself suddenly speechless, especially as he was standing in front of a display featuring the smiling face of a little girl whose mother brought her to the Mission after escaping a rather tragic, domestic situation. He seemed a sweet man, and I didn't feel it was the time or place to argue with him. Nor was I able, in my semi-shocked state, to come up with words that would educate with kindness.
The truth is the man was looking at homelessness and our work among the homeless with a "stereotypical" viewpoint that may have been somewhat accurate seventy or eighty years ago, but not many people "want" to be homeless. The opposite is often true: we have many guests who long to be independent. Who want employment that enables them to support themselves. While they are grateful for the Mission and for those who give, they are willing and wanting to be self reliant.
Truthfully, there are those who fit the "stereotypical view." I've met one man (one person in nearly nine years working at the Mission) who enjoyed being homeless and living "in every state in the US." And we help men and women who are homeless due to addictions or other problems. However, there are "homeless," unseen and unknown who are working all throughout this city. People waiting in line at the bus stop. Children going to school. Young people attending college. Just regular people...who are homeless.
I am grateful to this gentleman for his support of the Mission and even for speaking with me. His words are a reminder that we still need to communicate what we as an organization do and whom we serve. Just by telling our story and the stories of our guests, we are making a difference. We are transforming a "number" into a person. And a "person's a person," if you will allow me to paraphrase, no matter where they live, a house, an apartment, or a shelter.
-post by CRM Communications Manager