Unlike the late January outing of the Wasatch Hills Adventist Church’s Inner-city Outreach (ICOR) ministry — which saw a long line of the homeless already lined up along the sidewalk by the time we’d gotten there, waiting for the truck to arrive — yesterday’s outing was much more “relaxed.”
There was no long line, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any people in need. Instead, the people came more evenly, trickling in as time went on, through a slow bit of “sudden word of mouth” back at the homeless shelters a couple of blocks away on Rio Grande Street. After all, there’s always a need when it comes to those who are homeless. And their numbers don’t seem to be declining a single bit.
In January, the weather for the ICOR outing was mild and pleasant. Those who were being served then were more impatient and grumpy with each other, which necessitated a “firm hand and voice” to get a couple of touchy situations to settle before ugly situations turned into full-on fights.
Yesterday, the wind brought a bitter chill. Gusts had reached around 60 mph and caused a bit of damage in the area. But as for the mood of the volunteers and those being served … it was grand. Everyone seemed upbeat, eager to help; eager to help their fellow man, including those among the homeless themselves.
One example was one of the homeless men (shown to the left in the next two photos below) who had a friend, a fellow homeless man, with a short-haired dog. There was some concern for the animal from the owner’s friend, who wanted something warm to cover the canine. I suggested finding a sweater from one of the used clothing bins, like I’d seen once before at an ICOR outing in years past, and letting the dog use it as a “blanket.” After slipping it over the dog’s head, putting the front legs and paws through the sleeves, and cutting the sleeves to the right length, the friendly pup was good to go.
It was just another case of someone who was in need themselves looking out for the needs of an animal friend. In my house, that’s a pretty cool way to be.
There was one man there who I did spend a more extensive time talking with on Saturday. His name was Eugene. He’s a welder by trade, unemployed, and at one time he had a cocaine habit but he’s clean now and he just wants to make an honest day’s wages. He was brought to my attention because he was seeking a day job, anything to keep him from standing on a street corner near a stoplight or the top of a freeway offramp while holding a sign, seeking handouts. He wanted to make some honest money.
Eugene was not about handouts. He wanted to work. I could tell it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He was being honest with me. I advised him to just start going to businesses door-to-door in the business areas surrounding Pioneer Park, asking any businesses if there was anything to do to earn a few dollars. It was the best I knew to tell him, he just needed something that day.
I could relate.
One of the things that impressed me the most from Saturday’s ICOR outing was the willingness of the children in our church to help those most needy. There were the children of our church friends the Griffins. So young, and so eager and willing to help in passing things out, both on the ground and from the back of the truck.
And there was my own daughter Alicia, who’s gotten to be an old pro at these ICOR outings. She’s been helping with them almost as long as I have, for several years now. She discovered on Saturday that she REALLY likes to hand things out from the back of the truck.
And, speaking of ICOR veterans, there was Colleen Olson Gentry, the ministry’s faithful provider of a hot drink, some food, and a warm smile with pleasant conversation. She’s just not accustomed to being on the “pictures being taken of” side of the photography game.
Look at the painting on the building shown behind Colleen, the Big-D building. It’s a sign that displays strength. That’s the secret behind the success of Wasatch Hills’ ICOR ministry. It’s a sign of strength — strength in numbers, strength in caring, strength in fellowship. It’s been there for years, and as long as there’s a need for it, the ministry is sure to continue.
It helps to let people who are in need know that there is something promising, “somewhere over the rainbow.”