It is getting cold in El Dorado County
As I write this, the weather is changing, the temperature is dropping, rain is in the forecast and fall is rapidly turning into winter.
I can’t help but think about the people that don’t have a safe place to go to get out of the cold. As of January 2017, the County reported that there are 598 people without a place to call home and are living on the streets in El Dorado County.
There are as many reasons for homelessness as there are people that are homeless. Some stem from poor choices, awful circumstances, to life altering events that occurred and they were unable to cope with the situation.
Regardless of how people become homeless, I can assure you that not many of them prefer that lifestyle and it does not make them any less important than the rest of us.
Many of us are a couple of poor choices, unavoidable events or tragic circumstances away from finding ourselves wandering the streets terrified about it getting dark and not knowing where we’ll find someplace safe to rest and make it through another cold scary night.
My first real encounter with a homeless man was many years ago. He slept on a bench during the daylight hours outside a local ice cream parlor. After witnessing this on several occasions, it was decided that he needed to relocate. I took it upon myself to deliver this news to him. While letting him know that he needed to find another place to hang out, that he wasn’t welcome to hang around all day and sleep on the bench, he shared his story with me, he slept on that bench during daylight, because he was lonely and afraid to sleep during the night hours. He was a big man with bright red hair, but he was very fearful of living on the streets.
Red, as I fondly called him, was an Architect from San Francisco. His wife and son were tragically killed in an automobile crash. Red struggled with this sudden loss and his inability to cope turned him to alcohol to try sooth the pain and drown his sorrow. His partners asked him to take some time off to get better. He never made it back to work. Red eventually lost his job, his home, his car, as well as his friends and ended up on the bench outside an ice cream parlor watching other families enjoy a treat.
Of course, I was impacted by his story and ashamed of myself for judging this man that I knew nothing about but by only what I could see. He was dirty, disheveled and appeared to be a drunk. Who was I to cast judgment upon him? How would I have handled the situation if the tables were turned? Meeting Red changed me, I no longer look at someone and cast judgment. Now I find the time to give a smile, say hello and ask them if they are hungry.
Homelessness is becoming an epidemic in our Country. I don’t claim to know how to solve it, but I can tell you what to do to make it better, one person at a time.
What you can do
The next time you see someone that looks like they may be living on the streets; look them in the eye and smile. If you’re comfortable with it, ask them their name. It’s common that people see them but won’t look their way, because they’re afraid that if the homeless person sees you look at them, they may ask you for money. Quite frankly, some may, but most will not. A smile goes a long way in making all of us feel better, even people without a home. It’s not lost on them, they notice. Some will say that they feel invisible.
What local churches can do
Several churches in the County are involved in the winter nomadic homeless shelter.
Starting in November, local churches have opened their doors for the cold winter nights and offer the homeless a safe, comfortable, God honoring environment. Our desire is to foster relationships, awaken hope and honor everyone’s dignity through grace and compassion.
At Green Valley
We have a couple of designated places in town that we go to pick up the homeless, bring them back to the church where we offer them a shower (Green Valley Community Church is about the only place that offers our friends on the street a place to shower).
We provide a well balanced hot meal, watch a movie together or play games and fellowship. It’s a great opportunity to share stories and let our guests know that they are loved and not invisible. Many of our guests will say that the best part of their evening was feeling normal, if only for the night.
In the morning, we provide a hot breakfast, provide groceries and distribute clothing from the GVCC Clothes Closet. It’s what the Bible tells us in Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
There are two nights of the week that still need churches to open their doors. Please contact Bruce if you know of a church that is willing to help.
If you’re interested in getting involved or would like more information on the Nomadic Shelter, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-622-3231 X207
Community Care Director