This past week the headline in the Fort Collins Coloradan on Wednesday, March 26th was "Park Goes Private". We immediately knew that this article was referring to the Jefferson Street Park in downtown Fort Collins. This was the park where the homeless gathered during the day and where we would go to pass out water, coffee, donuts, blessing bags, socks, hats, gloves, blankets and sleeping bags to the homeless. The article informed us that the park was officially closed as the property was sold earlier this year and the owners were making plans to build a new restaurant on the site.
We immediately wondered where the homeless people would gather now that the park is closed. The article suggested that perhaps they would gather in another park or maybe in an area along the Poudre River. As I read the article I was left with conflicted feelings. I understood the desire to make downtown Fort Collins attractive and that closing Jefferson Street Park would move the homeless out of that area and yet I felt bad for the homeless people as this is where they gathered and now they would have to find another place. I was also thinking that just because a new restaurant will be on the property where the homeless once gathered it will appear that the issue of homeless in downtown Fort Collins has been addressed but in reality it has not. Homeless people will still be living in downtown Fort Collins and they will still gather together in a specific location even though it won't be in Jefferson Street Park.
We know that Soaring Wings Ministries does not have all the answers to address the issue of homelessness in all its' totality. The issue of homelessness is a complex one and homelessness has been around for a very long time. There were homeless people in the Bible who were looked down upon by society and many of them lived out their lives in caves. I don't think there is any one person or any one organization who has the knowledge or finances to completely eliminate homelessness in Larimer County. On the other hand, I do believe that there are many people who can help at least one homeless person. As Ed often says, "It is not rocket science to help a homeless person". Homelessness is a complex issue but to help one homeless individual is not. Homeless people are human beings. They need what every other human being needs. They need someone to invest in their lives with loving care. This investment into someone's life takes time, it takes money and it also takes self sacrifice. If you have children, especially grown children, just think about the amount of time, money and love you invested into each one of your children so that they could grow up to be loving, independent, caring and successful adults. It didn't happen over night, did it? It took years and years and years of loving them even when they weren't very lovable and of caring for them when we barely had the strength to put one foot in front of the other. Just think about the money we have spent or will spend on our children when we provide them clothes, food, dental care, school field trips, helping them with their first car and never mind adding in the cost of college. I can guarantee that very few of the homeless people you see in Fort Collins have had anyone invest in their lives with genuine loving care.
It is hard to imagine, isn't it, that there are people in the word who literally have no one to care about them. I remember when I was working at Early Head Start in Concord, New Hampshire as a Home Visitor and I remember one specific visit with a single Mom on my case load. It happened to be her birthday on that day I was visiting her and her children in their home. I naively asked her if she had anything special planned for her birthday with her family. She told me that she had never had any celebration of any kind or done anything special for her birthday. Her family had never made a cake for her or given her a present or taken the time to visit her on her birthday. She told me that she had never even received a birthday card on her birthday. I was heartbroken for her. I told her that her birthday was a very special day and it should be celebrated. She didn't have a lot of money but I told her that every year on her birthday she should take the time to celebrate her birthday. Together we came up with some fun, inexpensive ways to make her birthday special and as I leaving her home after our visit together she headed into her kitchen to pack a picnic lunch. She was taking her children to the city park for an afternoon outing to celebrate her birthday.
I believe that there is nothing that has the potential to pull a person out of poverty and homelessness except genuine loving care. Eliminating homelessness requires that we invest our time and resources into the lives of homeless individuals, one at a time. We cannot look at homeless people as a group.....we need to look at each an every homeless person as an individual.
Soaring Wings Ministries does not exist to eliminate homelessness. It exits to lovingly care for homeless people as individuals and to create wholeness and an empowered future for homeless and hurting young adults through the love of Jesus. Will Soaring Wings Ministries be able to completely eliminate homeless? Absolutely not. Will we be able to make a difference in a homeless person's life to the point that they will be self sufficient and no longer be homeless? I truly believe that we will. As soon as the addition is completed we will have two individuals living here who will receive what every human being needs in order to be given a chance for success. As Ed says, "What we do here at Soaring Wings Ministries isn't rocket science". It is the act of giving individuals the genuine loving care they desperately need.
Soaring Wings Ministries
Anita Rennells is the author of this blog. She and her husband have moved to Colorado when Ed retired and are in the process of opening a ranch to help homeless young adults.
Soaring Wings Ministries