Operation Homeless Hydration


What if the above picture depicted your only shelter available to you?  When was the last time you were hungry, but didn’t eat anything, solely because you couldn’t afford to buy any food?  It’s no secret that there are many living in and around Denver, CO who are living in exactly this state…. homeless.

During the summer of 2011, Denver’s 16th street mall saw more than 100 people sleeping on the street every night.  According to the Denver Post, in the Metro area alone, approximately 11,377 men, women and children were counted as being homeless in late January of that year.  About 62 percent of those people were families with children.

Over 7 years ago now, Mayor Hickenlooper launched an initiative to end homelessness within a decade calling it, “Denver’s Road Home Project.”

The project focuses on helping people find housing and get into programs to address root causes of homelessness such as drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness.

Denver’s Road Home, so far, has received more than $51 million in public and private funding, including grants and donations.  That sum also includes about $6 million a year from Denver’s Human Services.

Unfortunately, Denver’s Road Home executive director Amber Callender, announced her resignation last year and stated the program has not been able to keep up with the demand that has grown since the economic crash of 2008.

Furthermore, as the number of homeless people has increased, shelter spaces have filled up, transitional housing has been taken and social-service programs have developed long waiting lists, while at the same time, federal, state and local funding has been cut.

This year, the program is losing two key grants …a $502,900 federal shelter grant and a $1.2 million emergency shelter grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Although there have been cuts in funding and our current economic status is far from improved, Callender said Denver’s Road Home has been a success.  Over the course of the last six years, the program has connected 5,817 people with jobs, added 2,373 housing units, prevented 5,714 families from eviction and mentored more than 900 families and seniors out of homelessness.

I don’t know about you, but this is what I want to be a part of.  More than just throwing a few bucks at a homeless shelter…more than simply dropping .62 cents and some lint in a battered and bruised hand of an American war Vet at a crosswalk… I want to have feet on the street, praying with, ministering to, and loving on the homeless of Denver.

These are people.  These ARE PEOPLE.

I think it’s very easy for us who are more fortunate to become so busy with ourselves – our every day lives – that we can justify passing these people on the streets.  Just turn the other way…ignore it.

Do we ever have loving thoughts though?  Have we ever considered putting ourselves out a bit and offering a warm bed and house for even just ONE of those people to sleep in?  Please don’t take this as a guilt trip by any means.  There are definitely real reasons most of us could not do this and may not be called to.  i.e. Small children in the house.  One Bedroom apartment.  Female living on her own.

Honestly, the first time I offered my couch to a guy, I about took back the offer halfway to my apartment as we drove past a more than decent hotel.  This man was about six feet tall, missing two front teeth, in need of a shower and a shave, and was rocking a 1990 Saved By The Bell T-Shirt that he probably salvaged from a homeless shelter recently, considering it’s nearly clean condition.

All of these thoughts began to fill my head though…”what if he steals my stuff?  What if he takes all my food and leaves and then tells his homeless friends where I live and then comes back and ties me to a chair and they take over my apartment?!”

Worse…

“What if he kills me?”

I suddenly had great urges to hide all of the sharp objects in my apartment and replace all of my silverware with plasticware.  A good friend reminded me of this though…

Psalm 41:1-2 –   Blessed is the one who considers the poor!  In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; You do not give him up to the will of his enemies.

I read that in the middle of my doubt and I was overwhelmed with peace.  Ultimately, even if this guy was going to steal all of my stuff or use my cell phone to make calls to his best friend in Hong Kong, God was going to bless me and deliver me.  I’m not going to lie though, I locked my door that night.

This guy, Mac, ended up staying with me a total of 9 days before he said he needed to keep moving.  Honestly, Mac was a really nice guy and I think he was starting to feel like he was intruding.  No matter how often I told him to eat whatever and watch movies and to make himself comfortable, he was extremely conservative and really only had his fill during my own meal times.  At the end, Mac only asked me for one thing…not money…not food…not even water.  He asked me if there was a bible he could have.  I of course had about six sitting on a bookshelf collecting dust (gifts from family and friends over the years) so I told him to help himself.

Mac, like many others in his situation, told me he was a christian; a believer in God.  He had a little head knowledge of God though and very little heart knowledge.  My only prayer is that through showing him grace, compassion, and love, he would see those same things in the bible he took on his journey, and cling to it.  Though Mac may never pull himself up out of the depths of poverty, I hope he goes on to  be the best homeless evangelist there is and impacts his world for Christ.

In my time spent with Mac, I learned a few valuable lessons about living homeless.

1. Intoxication Makes You Vulnerable to threats.

2. Must Insulate In Winter (stuffing newspapers, old socks, and leafs inside your clothing.)

3. Always Have Water.

Man does not live by bread alone, but he’ll die without water.  The average person can only survive about 3-5 days without water.  Something many of us take for granted.  My faucet provides plenty of clean and free water for me.

Mike and I want to start here though.  We know we won’t get anywhere near $51 million dollars in grants or donations, but who can’t afford  a couple of bottles of water?

As the Summer heat takes its toll on the city, those living without shelter are not only suffering heat stroke/exhaustion, but they are actually in danger of dying.  In the month of July, there have been more than 100 deaths across the U.S. directly related to the heat.

Mike and I are currently working on setting up drop points all across the city with local grocery stores so that while you’re doing your regular grocery shopping, it would be as easy as purchasing an extra bottle of water at checkout and simply telling the clerk, “this is for Live Love,” and we would then go pick up those bottles and get them into the hands of those who need it most, every week.  More important than water though, we will be offering each and every individual we come into contact with, Living Water; hope…salvation.

We will keep you updated on this initiative so you can jump in and help us not only Live Love, but save lives.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

-JD

                                             

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