Saturday afternoon marked the first time in the last two winters that I’ve gone to help with our church’s Inner-City Outreach (ICOR) ministry for the homeless, and I wasn’t left wondering in the back of my mind how much longer it might be before we found our own family losing our grip on our own home.

English: A homeless person's shelter under a f...
English: A homeless person’s shelter under a fallen Willow tree along in New South Wales, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our great sense of relief was magnified after finally making it off the list of the unemployed/under-employed last week.  It didn’t lessen our sense of concern and empathy for those still suffering through it themselves, though.  In fact, our own struggles have only served to deepen that concern, because the reality of how close so many people are to falling into that kind of abyss at any point in time is all too real.

As for us, it literally felt like we were hanging on by our fingernails, and that grip was about to be lost.  Both of our sons are living away from home for now, and I was seriously wondering if they’d have a home to return to when their time came.

Avoiding that abyss is tricky, nerve-wracking, the fear is all too real.

We’ve been blessed, and we know it.  We’re grateful for that blessing, and we’re more than willing to show that gratitude.

English: A homeless man in Paris Français : Un...
English: A homeless man in Paris Français : Un sans domicile fixe à Paris. Tiếng Việt: Một người đàn ông vô gia cư ở Paris Polski: Bezdomny mężczyzna w Paryżu See below for more translations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are too many other people still out there who haven’t been blessed in the same way, including people of faith.

The number of people who came out to get help through ICOR Saturday afternoon was lower than normal.  The weather was warmer than it’s been all season, breaking into the 50s for the first time this year.

We still saw a slow stream of people coming as the tables and storage bins filled with clothes and shoes were being set up.  It included families with children, from the very young being pushed along in strollers to teenagers needing backpacks for school.

For the first time that I can remember, we put out a bin that contained items for babies because of the demand.

Those are the sights that can break your heart.

When the slow stream of people needing help at the ICOR truck had reached its end and we’d packed it up for another outing, I drove a couple of blocks north and west, to Rio Grande Street, to the area outside the homeless shelters.  It’s a drive I’ve gotten in the habit of making after each ICOR outing, to see a bit of the worst of the area’s homeless problem.

It’s on Rio Grande Street where it all sinks in the most.

The sidewalks outside the shelters were packed with people, waiting for the doors to open for the night.  In all the years that we’ve been helping with ICOR, I don’t recall ever seeing so many people along those sidewalks on both sides of the street.

As I drove closer to the shelters, I saw something I’d never seen before.  There was a figure in the street.  As we got closer, I could see that the figure in the street was a man laying down on the pavement.

Was the man drunk, or stoned, or was he just tired of fighting for space with so many people around him?  Who knows, maybe there was a combination of reasons.  But there he was.

on the street
A homeless man lies on the pavement on Rio Grande Street between homeless shelters in downtown Salt Lake City, as the sidewalks were packed with homeless people waiting for a place to stay for the night. (Photo By John G. Miller)

Like it or not, we are our brother’s keeper.  It could be any one of us out there, at any time.


3 thoughts on “Spending some time with the homeless (March 2, 2013 edition)

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