Thursday, January 02, 2014

Do you see what I see?

Last month, I had the privilege of taking part in Boston's annual homeless census.

Every year, for the last 34 years, Boston has made an effort to organize an army of volunteers who will take to the streets of Boston and take a census of all the homeless individuals throughout the city. This census is not only meant to put faces to all the individuals on the street and get an accurate count of how many people are sleeping on the street every night, but also to offer assistance in the form of shelter, warm blankets or medical treatment to anyone who may need it. 

As I arrived at City Hall to be briefed on the night, the whole scene was very surreal to me. There were 300+ volunteers all packed into a fairly enclosed area trying to find our teams and then waiting to be addressed by the director of the shelter system and Mayor Menino. 

My team had been tasked with surveying the neighborhood of West Roxbury, which as soon as I heard I was a little disappointed. If you are from the area, you know that West Roxbury is a fairly affluent section of the city and is mostly residential. Our team leader assured us that even though we most likely would not encounter anyone, our job was just as important as we were making sure that the ENTIRE city was accounted for, not just downtown. 

As we drove and walked around West Roxbury during the late hours of the night I couldn't help that my mind kept jumping to how cold I was even though I was wearing 4-5 layers of clothing that I have had the privilege to have bought or been given that were specifically designed to combat the cold and keep me warm. God really broke my heart in those moments as I was thinking about the low temperatures.  

No matter how cold I was, there were hundreds of individuals around the city last night that were far colder and wearing far less clothing than I was and were huddled in a corner or under an overpass. I had the opportunity to get into my warm car at the end of the night and drive home to a warm house and warm bed to sleep in, when none of these individuals would. 

Sleeping out in freezing temperatures every night huddled under a blanket is everyday life to them. Thats not how life should be, that's not how God intended it to be! In the end, I was kind of glad that we did not find anyone in our section of the city, because, for one, that means that the city is doing its job, and two, that if there were any individuals who normally live in that area on the streets, they had found refuge for at least the night as the temperature dropped to the single digits. 

As you go through this winter season, please take a second and pray for God open your eyes, to see what He see's, to see all these homeless individuals as brothers and sisters, as human beings that deserve a warm place to lay their head, just as much as you and I. 

- Chris Nazareth, CSM Boston City Director

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