Will you help me leave the streets?
"I’m ready. I want to go. Will you please get me off the streets and take me to shelter?"
Imagine being in an outreach van with the word "LOVE" written across it in big letters and having a woman come to you asking for this kind of help. That is exactly what happened when our staff visited a sister mission, Seattle’s Union Gospel Rescue Mission, looking for new ways to share the compassion of Jesus Christ with our neighbors experiencing homelessness in Grand Rapids.
Their outreach team had been providing resources and supplies to Sarah (*name changed for privacy) for years. She knew that the outreach team would be visiting that day and trusted that they would help get her off the streets after years of trauma.
When Sarah got in the car she shared her story with the team. Four years ago, pregnant with twins, she and her fiancé moved to Seattle from Spokane. After complications during pregnancy, she lost both twins to miscarriage. Her fiancé was distraught and left Sarah, taking their money and all of their belongings with him. She had nothing left and believed her only way to survive was to turn to drugs and sell her body on the streets. She relied on the outreach team to deliver supplies regularly and began to develop a relationship with them. This relationship, the constant that the Seattle Outreach team provided, helped Sarah realize that there was more to her story than homelessness. The day that the outreach team took her to shelter was the day Sarah left the streets of Seattle.
Our team was so impacted by this experience that we made it a priority to pilot a similar outreach program in Grand Rapids - working with other Grand Rapids outreach partners.
HOPE for Grand Rapids
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Matthew 25:35-36
The generous gifts that we received on #GivingTuesday exceeded our goal of $15,000 and covered the cost of a gently used van that will be stocked with supplies for a whole year! With the van, our staff can begin building relationships with more people experiencing homelessness in Grand Rapids.
Our team has plans to take our Hope Van out to the streets of Grand Rapids to find individuals, like Sarah, and families who are sleeping under bridges, in parks or in doorways and may be hesitant or unable able to make it to our doors. We hope to change the lives of our neighbors by being proximate and providing them with non-judgmental love, a listening ear, food, water, blankets, first aid, and the compassion of Jesus Christ.
We exist to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to anyone experiencing homelessness, which means even when people can’t or don’t want to come inside the Mission. We don’t want to leave people on the streets but we understand it takes time to build trust and develop relationships. We are called to love that person, period. If we can be their constant and show them we love them, we hope we will be able to help them overcome their homelessness.