On Tuesday night Meredith, Ed and I volunteered to help count the number of homeless people in the city of Fort Collins. This is called a Point In Time count and required the volunteers to spread out across the city at specified times to locate and interview the homeless.
Meredith, Ed and I were assigned to interview as many homeless people as we could at a shelter in Fort Collins. When we arrived at the shelter there was a long line of homeless people waiting outside to see if there would be room for them to spend the night inside. The sun had gone down for the night so it was dark and the air was cold. I immediately started walking down the line of homeless people to see if anyone would be willing to participate in the interview. As I approached the individuals standing in line I had a brief glimpse of what it is like to stand outside in the cold, dark night hoping for a warm bed in a warm building. I also had a brief opportunity to look closely into the eyes of the individuals. What I saw was not pleasant. No one greeted me with a smile or a welcome or so glad you are here. Instead I saw weariness, fatigue, fear, emptiness and worry. Every person standing in that line had a look of hopelessness.
My first interview led me to a very young man who said he was 20 years old. It is heart breaking to look into the eyes of a handsome young man and see nothing but hopelessness, weariness and fear. He was with his older brother and they were waiting in line to see if they would be able to get into the shelter for the night. He was a shy young man and it was clear that this young man was a bit apprehensive about answering my questions. He looked to his brother for direction and his brother nodded his head that it was o.k. I proceeded with the interview and what I learned was that this young man and his brother had been homeless for about 9 months. They were looking for work but had not yet found any. Neither brother had completed high school and the highest grade one brother had completed was 9th grade. They had no health insurance and no money. No money, no health insurance, no education, no job, no car and no place to live and yet the brothers had something very precious...they had each other. It was clear that these two young brothers have not had an easy time of life and yet here they were sticking together during hard times and watching out for one another.
My second interview was even more heartbreaking and eye opening than the first. It was a single mother with three children. The children appeared to be about 6, 8 and 10 years old, two boys and a girl. I wish that you could have been with me at this interview to meet this mother. It was about 7:30 pm and she had no idea where she and her three children would be sleeping that night; and yet she was so patient with her children and was willing to take the time to answer my interview questions. She had so many other pressing issues to deal with that night and yet she was willing to give her time to me, a stranger. During the interview I learned that she was a single parent and was working at a full time job for $10.00 an hour. I asked her where she and her children would sleep if they couldn't get into the shelter and she said they would sleep in their car. A single parent of three children, a full-time job that paid $10.00 an hour and no place to live. Honestly, I don't know how she had the patience to deal with her active children or how she had the patience to answer my questions about her homelessness. I wondered where her strength came from to go to work after spending the night in a car with three children. I wondered how it was possible to get three kids ready for school after sleeping in a car. What would they eat for breakfast? Where would they use the bathroom, brush their teeth and wash their face? Would they go to school and work in the same clothes they slept in? How did this mother find the strength to do this day after day and night after night? How do three young children thrive without a home and without a warm bed of their own to sleep in at night? This mother had so much determination and was trying so hard but she was bone tired weary.
These are the faces of the young people and families that we want to help here at Soaring Wings Ministries. I share these stories with you so that you will know that the need to help the homeless here in Fort Collins, Colorado is great and that the people are real. They are tired, weary, hopeless and they are running on empty. Our motto for Soaring Wings Ministries is "Hope In Action". We want to give hope to the two young brothers standing in line and we want to ease the weariness of the single, working mother with three children. We want to give the three young children a warm bed to sleep in every night and we want to see them heading off to school after having a warm breakfast. We want to look into all their faces and see smiles of hope and joy instead of fear and hopelessness. We want to love them like Jesus loves them and share the love of Jesus with them on a daily basis in a real and tangible way. With God's help and blessing Soaring Wings Ministries will be able to offer families like we met a place to live until they can soar on their own. We are pressing forward and look forward with joyful anticipation to the day when the property at 499 Trinity Lane will offer "Hope In Action" to needy families and young adults.
Written by: Anita Rennells
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