Something really hit home for me yesterday as I drove through a shopping center near my friend’s bank. The strip mall features at least 10 or more store fronts and I was shocked to find that nearly two thirds of the businesses were closed and gone. Windows were bare and notices hung on doors.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I noticed that down on the far end of the shopping center there was, what appeared to be, trash all over the ground on the sidewalk.
As I drove closer I realized that it wasn’t trash on the ground, but rather people lying on blankets with whatever they called their own stacked beside them in plastic trash bags, in stolen grocery carts or tethered to bicycles lying close to them on the ground. They looked like they hadn’t eaten or taken a bath in months.
I’m always leery when I see people that look homeless. Could this all be for show? Do they like living under the radar, not having to pay taxes or be responsible for anyone other than themselves? Do they all belong to a secret cult that preys on people for food and money? Have they all chosen not to work? Is it all part of a scam?
It had been 4 months since I was last in this area and so much had changed in such a short time. I couldn’t imagine what had caused such an influx of homeless. Could this be a result of the covid virus?
The news has reported that hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. Were the ten or so men lying and sitting on the sidewalk near the bank, part of this statistic or were they homeless before the invasion of the virus and they simply found a new patch of shade from the 98 degree Florida sun?
Businesses all over the country, large and small, have closed and entire areas like this one have been blighted. Is the virus the culprit for this blight as well?
I sat waiting for my friend to finish at the bank, pondering why such a change had occurred. It made me realize how very blessed I am.
I’ve seen the pictures of homeless scattered through our major cities, like in California where Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris live. I don’t understand. Does anyone understand?
These are two of the most powerful, influental, wealthy women in, not only California but in the United States. Why aren’t they fixing this? If they can’t fix the problem in their own back yard how can I believe they or anyone else is going to fix it in mine?
Seeing homeless so close to home makes me realize that this is another epidemic – possibly worse than the covid virus.
I am ashamed that I, like so many others, have ignored and turned a blind eye to the poor here in the United States. We have so many government assistance programs – like food stamps, subsidized housing, food pantries, homeless shelters, etc. Other countries, that I help serve though Missions, (like India, Bolivia, Africa and Haiti), just don’t have government assistance programs for their poor.
So the thought of someone being poor, hungry and homeless in the United States, doesn’t make sense to me. Then again, I guess I’ve apparently been naive or blinded by my own ignorance and fear of it being too close and too real.
I admit that I secretly have been grateful that homelessness and hunger was “SOMEWHERE ELSE” and not in my neighborhood. Now it is getting too close to home. It has stepped over the imaginary line I have drawn in my head.
I think my arms length approach to homelessness here in the States, is because I was scammed years ago when I was younger.
I had seen a guy with a scruffy, long beard, wearing old dirty clothes, standing at an intersection, with a sign saying HOMELESS and HUNGRY.
After I dropped a $10 bill in his bucket, he paused as if calculating his take for the day, looked at his watch as if his shift was over, picked up his “Homeless” prop, left his “spot”, walked into a parking lot and drove away in a better car than mine.
Another time, I gave money to a women standing outside of a fast food restaurant, who claimed she needed money to feed the child standing next to her. Afterwards, I watched from the restaurant window as she went down the street with my money, never getting her child any food. I should have given the boy food directly, but I was young and didn’t know better.
So, these two instances of being scammed, has been the basis for my looking the other way. Scam me once, shame on you, scam me twice, shame on me has been my attitude over the past few years. This is why I have looked away from the faces and signs at the intersections, but this virus, this monster, has made hunger and homelessness more real to me.
I know people that have lost their jobs and are really struggling and if their circumstances don’t change soon, I am afraid they may be facing a similar plight. I would like to believe that God and my own compassion would not allow things to go that far.
I am so Thankful that I am not walking in their shoes. I try to help anyone THAT I KNOW that is struggling, but admit I have turned away from those lying in doorways and standing on corners with signs that I DO NOT KNOW.
Have I become so shallow and distrusting that I require an ID, a referral or a copy of an eviction notice before I would help someone in need? I pray not. If that is the person that I have become, God forgive me, but the reality is that people do take advantage and “work the system”. This spoils it for everyone who is truthfully in need of help.
Even at church it’s difficult. People come in off the streets telling stories of hopelessness and need and unfortunately, again, we have been deceived. So we ask questions. We ask for contacts and referrals.
We try to be good stewards with our Church’s money and help when and where we can. Our congregation donates food to our local food bank and thru Missions, we have supported abused woman trying to start over on their own., by donating funds to THE ANSWERED PRAYERS Ministry. We also provide clothing and household items to needy families through our church’s thrift shop.
But is it enough? Can more be done for those that do not reach our doorstep?
Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done”.
Deuteronomy 15:10-11 “10Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.”
Thus I pray before you now: God, please help me to have a spirit of discernment when it comes to the poor. Help me to have a caring, giving spirit for those truly in need and protect me from those that would take advantage of that spirit.
Help me to know what to do for those that are suffering and give me the ability to do what you lead me to do. Never let me forget how blessed I am to have a roof over my head and food on my plate. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Today I am so Thankful that I have a roof over my head and food on my plate and I’m also grateful that I have the ability to help those in need here and around the world.
What are you Thankful for today.
I’m sure that God would love to hear from you and so would I.
From my heart to yours, VICTORIA