Today, I volunteered along with a number of other folks to work the Program of Hope ministry up at First Presbyterian, New Orleans. My task is to stand in front of the table where the homeless vouchers for a night in the Salvation Army are handed out. I joke that like Pope Frances, my job is being the “bouncer” (making sure too many people don’t try to go to the table at once). But the interesting part of the job is that I get to talk to the folks as they wait their turn. Many stories I find interesting and surprising. I thought I would briefly share four here today:
a) Woman in her mid 50s. Well educated. Former horticulturist. Used to make a six figure income stocking downtown hotels with plants and keeping them up. Lost her home due to not being able to pay the mortgage. Just returned back to New Orleans after trying to make it in another city. Trying to get her feet on the ground again.
b) Man in his late 40s. Barrel chested and about five foot eight with thick arms from weight lifting. When I handed out a “Toys for Tots” flyer to the woman behind him he said, “Oh, I used to do that, in my dress blues. I was a Marine before. Finding jobs down here is hard though.”
c) Man in his mid 50s. From Lafayette. Used to own his own carpentry business but got involved in drugs (taking, not selling). Lost it all. Trying to find work in the city but has no place to stay right now.
d) Man (30), Woman (25), and child (3 months). He was an industrial worker but lost his job and they lost their apartment. They were both trying to get vouchers for the night for the three of them. The little baby girl couldn’t have been cuter. The man looked very thin.
What stood out to me about all six is none of them fit into the our typical image of the homeless (mental health issues, current substance abuse issues, or people who had no skills to get a sustaining job). The couple with the baby, in this season, surely reminded me of Joseph and Mary (who, even though they were traveling to Joseph’s hometown, had no family who offered to put them up. I always suspect that might have been based on their judgment on Mary’s pregnancy.)
I am grateful for the many churches and their members who give of their time and resources to the Program of Hope and other homeless ministries. I also am grateful for the opportunity to get to know some of these folks. Let’s keep the homeless in our thoughts, prayers, and a recipient of our giving this Christmas Season.
Until Next Time,