Saturday morning. November 10. 10 am. Huddled in their makeshift encampment in central Eastside industrial area under an overpass, several homeless people struggle to survive.
It’s cold. The weather plays no favorites. But it does wage war against the vulnerable and exposed. Passersby pity them or ridicule them. Few think to help. Except in fleeting moments during the holidays when pledge drives, appeals for help, and stories of suffering filter through the mainstream clutter of forced jolliness which accompanies the season.
Meanwhile they suffer and die, often alone. Forgotten. Cold. Stories of heart-break hidden beneath layers of public assumptions.
Who knows what brought them to this point? What personal traumas ripped them from homes and comfort? So many stories, not least a tanked economy growing worse by the week. Sure, some suffer addictions brought on by their choices. Many struggle with mental illness. Most simply have lost hope.
Not all homeless people are panhandlers. Likewise, not all panhandlers live outdoors. A friend of mine who works daily with the homeless once told me his friends without homes make about $3 per hour panhandling. That’s it. I know. I’ve heard the stories of large sums of money being made, too. But those stories do not reflect the pervasive common reality in Portland.
The encampment above has been growing over the past couple of weeks, particularly as the temperatures have plummeted. I drive by it almost daily in the course of my work routine.
And I pray for them. For provision. Protection. Deliverance from any bondage, and for the hope of Jesus to take hold in their hearts so that they may begin taking steps to get out of their situations.
I admit it. Sometimes I give a dollar or two to a friend on the street. Mainly I try to cultivate relationships, both with my friends without homes and with those who give their lives to help them daily.
By God’s grace I have a home and a job. I’ve had my share of financial pain, coming precipitously close to homelessness years ago. Relationships with people who love me preserved me from that road. I thank God for them.
As you read this in the comfort of your home, ask ourself: how might you personally ease the burden of someone suffering outdoors?
I suggest beginning by giving to local credible shelters or rescue missions. Be wise, but give liberally. Someone’s life may depend on your sacrificial giving.