Monday, October 13, 2014

Shifting Perspectives on Homelessness

Each week, when groups come to CSM Philadelphia for service we start with a prayer tour of Philadelphia. We seek to understand the places both of brokenness and of God's light in the city. At one stop, we pray for the homeless of Philadelphia, around 4,000 people, and try to empathize about what that might look like.

One of our partners, Bethesda Project, helps to provide resources for the homeless by reaching them where they are at and responding to their specific needs. Today, they sent out a list of facts about homelessness from across the country.

Why do you think someone might be homeless? Sure, there are a variety of reasons, but it turns out that most homelessness is caused for the simple reason that a person cannot find anywhere to live that they can afford.  Especially in urban centers in the US, there just aren't enough options for those with low incomes.

Here are some other facts. Try to think of them this way: how many Facebook friends do you have - maybe 500, or 1000, or even 2000? I've got 758. Now, think of how many friends don't have housing:

-There are 610,042 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States. That's 805 times as many Facebook friends as I have.
-Of that number, 222,197 are people in families without homes. That's almost 300 times the number of Facebook friends I have.
-About 18% of those without housing are chronically homeless (have been homeless before, and sometimes multiple times.)  Imagine if 18% of your Facebook friends were often homeless - for me, that's 136 friends.

How would you treat the homeless if they were your friends? Maybe we can start with a simple prayer and a moment of empathy: "Father of hope, be with our friends."

Then listen to see if God is prompting you to action - that could look like coming on a CSM trip, volunteering in your community, or supporting a local shelter. But praying is the first and best way to connect.

- Nicole Engelhardt, CSM Philadelphia Associate City Director

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