Our morning started at 7:30 when the leader of BTM "kicked" us out of the church to experience what life is really like for homeless. Our goal for the day wasn't to pretend to be homeless and make a game out of it, but it was to realize what homelessness really was and what daily life looked like for those living on the streets.
So off we went, with no money or electronics in hand, only our three items we collected the night before, along with our sleeping bags. Within minutes of walking the streets, we started to see the judgmental glares from passing pedestrians. We split off into two groups of 6 and started our search for breakfast. One of the groups went to a Mission and waited in line for an hour for a breakfast made up of banana bread, bagels and coffee. My group on the other hand went without breakfast. We walked around for an hour until we came across a book store, where we wandered around for a few hours. By the time 11:30 rolled around our tummies were growling and we were ready to find lunch for the day.
We came across one of the many Missions Portland has to offer. We were so very thankful for the food we were served. Our other group took a different rout for lunch. They sat outside of a Safeway grocery store with a sign that read "Temporarily homeless. Anything will help. Thank you!" within 20 minutes they made $25. With that money they bought themselves bread and cream cheese and gave rest of the money to a homeless man.
Both of the groups day included wandering around, resting on benches, window shopping and sitting in libraries. We were exhausted, cold and our feet and legs were sore. After 8 hours on the streets, we were ready to be done. We met back at the church we stayed at the night before to debrief and talk about our day. Our views on homelessness were changed. By the end of the day my heart was broken for the homeless.
After living in a big city my whole life and seeing homelessness around me, I never once knew what it was like for them and never once had much compassion for them. What we went through in that one day was nothing like what they go through on a daily basis. Imagine going every day without someone genuinely caring for you, acknowledging that you even exist or even getting a "Hello, how are you doing today?". That is how it is for most homeless men and women. I know I couldn't go a day without having a conversation with my family or friends. This is their life. It's what they go through on a daily basis.
For dinner that evening we got to eat at different food carts. It was a fun Portlander experience. At 6 o’clock we started to get ready and prepared for something called Night Strike. It is an opportunity every Thursday night for members of Portland’s homeless community to hang out, enjoy a hot meal, receive a free haircut, have their feet washed and receive new clothes, shoes and sleeping bags. It was a really fun night to meet new people and serve them. It was also Night Strikes 10th anniversary. I'm so grateful that I was able to join hundreds under the Burnside Bridge that night.
It was a very long and tiring day, but its a day that I am so thankful for. My view on homelessness changed that day and my heart broke for them. I met a family where the husband had been on the streets since he was 16. He now is in his 30's and has a wife, 10 month old and a baby on the way. They live in their car. How would that not break your heart? They are raising their family on the streets and really have no other choice.
Something that really stuck out to me on this trip is how often I look at a homeless person on the corner of a street and think to myself how they are just lazy and could at least get a job at McDonalds. I never thought though of the process of actually getting a job. In reality how could they fill out an address, phone number, references or even past experience? My eyes were opened and my heart was broken once again about my judgmental spirit and attitude toward homelessness.
I was so thankful for this day and for actually realizing the reality of people living on the streets. There are 14,000 homeless people living in Portland, it is real and something has to happen to help it stop. The same Jesus that died for me, also died for all 14,000 of those people. Just because I have a job, live in a house and am blessed with incredible family and friends doesn't mean Jesus loves me more than anybody else. He loves homeless people just as much as He loves me. That's the great thing about His love; it doesn't matter what we do or have, He just simply loves us because he loves us. There's nothing that we have ever done or will do to deserve it. There is no difference to God between me and the homeless man down the street. We both are in great need of a Savior and simply need to ask him into our lives. Thank you Jesus for reminding me of that truth today!