Today’s post comes from my friend, Amy Sullivan, from North Carolina. Amy is an author with a giant heart for serving her community and getting families to serve together.
I’m embarrassed to say my ideas about people who are homeless used to consist of one imagined figure: A person bundled up in layers of clothing and huddled beneath a blanket. This person was usually holding up a cardboard sign, which contained the words, “God Bless” scratched out in permanent black marker. In my limited view, people who were homeless didn’t have jobs or cars and all of them battled
who were homeless didn’t have jobs or cars and all of them battled some form of addiction or mental illness, probably both.
This stereotyping continued when I thought about the needs of people experiencing homelessness. I assumed all people who were homeless needed warm hats, heavy blankets, and canned goods.
But then I started hanging out in a place, which housed over forty women and children and smelled of bleach and Hamburger Helper. It is a place, which provides housing, food, training, mentoring, and life-skills classes to women, women who happen to be homeless.
Suddenly, my imaginary homeless person turned into an actual person, and she quickly blasted apart the stereotypes of who I thought her to be.
She held a job at Jo-Ann Fabrics. She owned a car in which she used to drive herself back and forth to work. She had a daughter who was eighteen and a son who was four. Her hair was braided neatly, and she smelled of vanilla.
This surprised me.
She liked to read Faulkner just for fun, and her sentences were littered with words like “hackneyed” and “rancorous”.
This also surprised me.
She didn’t need a hat (she could knit one herself, thank you very much), and she certainly didn’t need a warm blanket (she could make that too). She gratefully ate food, which came from cans, but dreamed of a garden she tended years before.
Again, I was surprised.
And truthfully, I am still learning to chip away at the damaging stereotypes I’ve bought into about people who are homeless, but do you know what helps? Meeting people who have experienced being without a home. The more people I meet, the less likely I am to clump them into a big group.
The women I encounter who are homeless may be different than me (after meeting the woman above, I had to go home and look up the word “hackneyed”), but they are a giant reminder that we are all failing humans in need of God and each other.
This short video from Rethink Homelessness shares the rich life histories of people who are homeless. Oh, I happen to love the fact that participants in the video wrote their stories with black permanent marker on cardboard. (E-mail subscribers may need to click through to see the video.)
Amy L. Sullivan just released her first book entitled When More is Not Enough: How to Stop Giving Your Kids What They Want and Give Them What They Need. She writes for oodles of online and print publications. She’d love to connect with you at AmyLSullivan.com.
Grab your H Card:
- Write down names of organizations in your community serving the homeless.
- Write down any names of individuals or families you’ve met who are homeless.
- Ask God how you can begin to meet the needs of the homeless in your community, and ask that He would remove any stereotypes from your thinking.
Tweetables:I assumed all homeless needed warm hats, heavy blankets, and canned goods. via @AmyLSullivan1 #PrayAtoZ
How can we pray for and assist the homeless in our community? A story from @AmyLSullivan1 #PrayAtoZ
We #PrayAtoZ and H is for Homelessness. A story from author @AmyLSullivan1