Last night we were at our church, Council Tree Covenant Church, serving and having dinner with 4 homeless families that were staying at our church for the week. These families have no place to live, due to various circumstances that have come up in their lives. They all have cars but no place to live, so one week a month our church opens up their door to give these families a place to call home for a week. Each family has a Sunday School room to themselves. There are no beds in there to sleep on. Each person has a mat on the floor with blankets and a pillow. Their belongings are kept in whatever they have. This could be a suitcase, plastic bin, box or garbage bag. The families are always so grateful to be at our church where they are safe, warm, fed and loved for one week. For us, we are also so blessed to serve these families when they are staying at our church.
After we had dinner and said goodnight to the families we left to return home to our house in Wellington. It was freezing cold.....37 degrees with a bone chilling drizzling rain. I did not want to leave the warmth of our church and head out to our cold car and wait for the heat to warm it up. I thought of the families inside our church and I was so happy that they were all safely tucked inside our nice warm church for the evening.
My chill from the weather did not leave me. You know that kind of chill.....you just can't put on enough layers or turn the heat up high enough to get warm. I did not think to bring gloves or a hat with me as I never expected it to be bone chilling cold on September 11th!!!! As we drove through downtown Fort Collins, I wished that I felt warm instead of having a lousy chill. I wished I had a pair of gloves and a hat with me. I wished I had a blanket to cover up with. I wished Ed would drive faster so because there was no place else that I wanted to be except in our nice warm house with my PJ's, bathrobe, warm slippers, hot tea and my book!
As we drove home, our daughter, Meredith, asked "I wonder if anyone is sleeping outside in the park tonight?"
Oh my goodness, I was focused on myself and my temporary discomfort in riding in a chilly car on a bone chilling night!! But Meredith was so right!!!! What about the people who sleep outside every night? Where were they sleeping on this bone chilling night? Were they warm? Did they have blankets? Were they able to get inside out of the cold and the dampness? We weren't just thinking in general about homeless people in the park....we were thinking about people we had met by serving them coffee and donuts at the park every other Saturday. These were people who we knew by name and who have come to know us. We know of one homeless young man who suffers from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan and he has told us that because of his PTSD he cannot endure a night in a crowded shelter on a mat......he would much rather be outside. Where was this young man tonight? We know he wasn't in a shelter so we felt concerned for him and hoped and prayed that he was safe and warm. What about the young man who has a dog that he loves with all his heart? He certainly would not be allowed into the shelter with his dog? Is he safe and warm on this bone chilling night?
As we drove home, more and more faces and names of homeless people came to came to mind. One of our hopes was to come to know the homeless people personally and to develop relationships with them. As we drove home I realized that we are making progress in getting to know them. We know their names. We know their faces. We see them regularly. As our joy in getting to know them personally is increased, our sadness and burden for them also increases. They are no longer just homeless people living in a park.....they are people that we know and care about living in a park. They are people that we know and care about and we have no idea if they are safe and warm on a bone chilling night.
We so desperately want to provide homeless families and young adults with a place to call home for a while until they can get on their feet. We know that we cannot help everyone living in the park but we know without a doubt that we can help some of them. As the saying goes "No one can help everyone but everyone can help someone". It is frustrating because we have the land, we know the people who we can help and yet we don't yet have the funds to build the addition to house these people in need. On a bone chilling night of 37 degrees with drizzling rain driving home in our car, I wished I was a millionaire or wished I at least had enough money to build an addition to our home. The homeless faces now have names. The desire and urgency to help them increases because we know their names. I thought of the addition that we need to house some families and hoped that it will be built sooner rather than later. I pray that soon I won't be the only one grateful for the comforts of home. I pray that some of the homeless people we have met will also know the comforts of home on a bone chilling, 37 degree, drizzly night. Baby it was cold outside last night!!!! We now know their names and we now know their faces. Baby it was cold outside!!!
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