Helping the homeless seems like such a pure and innocent idea. It seems easy. Chris has always had a heart for homeless ministry, and until this week, helping them has been easy. A dollar to a Contributor distributor, a meal snd a gift card for a couple on the corner, donated creative services to help promote a homeless ministry’s message.
Helping the homeless seems so easy. If someone you meet is living on the street, their needs seem obvious enough — food, shelter, clothes — and easy enough to solve.
Chris and I are learning that it is never that simple, not if you really get in the trenches with a homeless person and try to help.
On Thursday last week, I was driving to go to the grocery store and the consignment shop when a woman ran in front of my car, waving her arms for me to stop. My first thought was, “Is she crazy? What is she doing?” And then it occurred to me that something might be wrong, so I pulled over.
She told me she and her husband were trying to get across town to a treatment center that was closing in two hours. For some reason — I wish I could say it was the Holy Spirit, but I think it was just a foolish decision on my part — I decided to give them a ride.
Full disclosure: I had Mackenzie in the car. This is the part where you can say, “Dee, WHAT were you thinking?!?” Because I keep asking myself that, and I still don’t know.
The treatment center we went to was a methidone clinic for recovering meth addicts. It is kind of a scary place. Talk about having my world rocked.
After that I took them out to Chipotle because they hadn’t eaten and had no money. I learned that the night before, they had slept on concrete behind the Kroger grocery store a couple of miles from my home. I also learned that they were from Florida, had a son there, and had come to Nashville on the promise of a job in music that (of course) evaporated when they got here.
After lunch I dropped them off at Kroger where the woman just started working. Chris and I picked them up and took them to dinner that evening and offered to let them stay with us for a night.
This is where things get complicated. And less charitable. And I kick myself repeatedly.
They told Chris they planned on staying with us through Monday. I have no idea why he agreed, but he did set some important ground rules for our safety.
On Sunday they announced that it would be Thursday instead.
It is hard to know what to say or how to explain this next part. I think I feel taken advantage of… You could say that I’m just over it.
We have given them clothes, just about doubled our grocery budget, purchased toiletries, allowed them to use our phones and computers, allowed them to wash clothes, and cooked for them. I have driven them all over Nashville, taken them to treatment, and attended appointments with them. I’ve called so many agencies trying to find help for them.
We have not been thanked. Instead, they have been disruptive, secretive, repeatedly asked for money, and have not really carried their weight in regard to helping with dishes and things like that. Their attitude is one of entitlement.
Clearly, they have made a lot of mistakes and burned a lot of bridges. They need a second chance. We’ve tried to give that to them, but it’s not working.
Our plan was to set them up with an apartment, but all of the options we have found have an income requirement, and the man is not working. We have seen no progress with his job hunting.
Our second plan was to buy them bus tickets home to Florida, but I spoke to a relative there today, and they are not welcome. The family considers them a danger to their child.
I think it’s time to wrap this post and this journey up. The man is a slave to his addiction, and the woman is an enabler. We are taking them to the Rescue Mission tonight. It breaks my heart that this is ending this way, but we are at a loss as to what to do.
What I have learned from this experience is that homeless ministry is anything but easy. My respect has multiplied one hundred fold for those who work in the trenches of this kind of ministry every day. I truly don’t know how they do it.