It's not every day we think of ourselves as privileged. Living as a middle class, white person from San Jose, CA, I am very privileged. Yet, I am surrounded by those who are not. The homeless population in San Jose has grown enormously and is one that is not treated very fairly. The city has forced them out of their camps and has them constantly moved. Local organizations, food banks, and churches with open doors are just a few places where the homeless are given help. What would be even greater is to help them not just with shelter and food, but with comfort and a sense of belonging. It's a struggle living on the streets in such a rich and booming city as San Jose.
It is eye-opening to see how many people are homeless in my hometown. Many homeless people in a documentary called, "Exodus from the Jungle," mentioned how the city destroyed their homes and families by evicting them numerous times from their camps. They also talked about how they are humans too and how we shouldn't profile them and see them as not people. One man said, "We are not dogs, we just live like them." That really hit me hard because they deserve social justice and don't deserve harsh treatment constantly pushed upon them. They have children and grandchildren, they have social lives, and they are no different from you or me. There are so many stereotypes of the homeless: they are mentally disabled, drug addicts, or even choose to live this way. Yes, there are quite a few who are those, but only about 10-20% of the homeless population are homeless due to them. Most of people without homes are homeless because of job loss or not being able to pay medical or home bills. Another man mentioned how you could be one paycheck away from losing your house. They didn't choose to be homeless. They aren't animals, they're human beings. They deserve the same respect and courtesy we give to everyone else.
After spending time working with homeless men and women in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, I have come to realize that these people are dedicated to their community and are willing to help each other out. A group from my school and I went to serve in that district of San Francisco; It’s perhaps the poorest neighborhood in the city. We served as volunteers for San Francisco City Impact, a ministry based in the Tenderloin that works to build and help the community. My team and I were sent to work in their beauty center and do street ministry. I know what you are thinking, no one likes street ministry, people yelling, "Let Jesus Christ into you heart or else you'll go to hell." It wasn't at all like that. We walked around the district, handing out bags of chips and just having regular conversations. If Jesus or God was brought up, we did some preaching, but we didn't force religion down their throats like stereotypical street-preachers would.
When were doing our street ministry, we met few memorable folks. One was named Eddie (seen below). He ran away from his home Mexico just the day before. He and his brother were part of the Mexican military, Eddie being a sergeant. At a routine checkpoint in Tijuana, Eddie and his brother discovered a truck full of cocaine. Things escalated quickly. The owners of the truck shot down his brother in attempt to escape federal charges. In fear of his life, Eddie ran away to safety. He left behind a home, a wife, and three children between the ages of 16 and 21. At the time, he was trying to get a job, but was homeless and broke. We bought him a few supplies at nearby liquor store, prayed for him, and sent him on his way.
Another man we met (seen below) didn't give his name, but he did tell us about his wife, Karen. She passed away five years ago due to overdose. Being temporary street-ministers, we reassured him that Karen is up in Heaven with God in a much better place. He would not stop repeating, "I don't care if she's in heaven or hell, I don't give a rat's ass where, I'm coming for her." This year would have been their 40th wedding anniversary.
These people are so grateful for what they have and never give up hope. If you ever see someone asking for money (or not), please don't hesitate to give them some money, some food, or even some of your time; Just have a conversation with them. All I ask is, is that you stop profiling homeless men & women and help a friend out. We are one in the same, we are all children of God, and we are all human beings. Stop judging and just love.