Philadelphia currently maintains a population of roughly 1.5 million people, making it the 5th largest city in the United States. There are approximately 3,000 homeless individuals that are living in shelters across the city, but on any given night of the week, there could be 300 – 500 people sleeping outside in the city as well. Homelessness is a strongly stigmatized circumstance, but CSM Philadelphia is partnering with ministries across the city to fight that.
While the issue of homelessness has not gone unnoticed, the treatment of it has simply been erratic. A homeless man named Lucio, 68, has been homeless in Philadelphia for the past three years. “We don’t really need the food all the time. The most difficult is to find a place that’ll really give you help and hear you out,” he says, “It don’t do me any good at all if they isn’t gonna listen.” Such is the mission of Joetta Kieffer, the founder and heart behind Hands of Hope, a homeless outreach ministry in Philadelphia. The basis of her ministry rests in the idea that a connection and conversation is more helpful than a pamphlet.
She believes that everyone is deserving of an open ear to hear their voice. She becomes passionately indignant when the notion of inequality comes up in regards to the homeless population in Philadelphia.
“They are no different than anyone else. Their circumstances are just different than where I’m at. That does not demote them as human beings,” she says, “we are created equal.”
The greatest issue, perhaps, is not necessarily that things are not being done, but that people are not willing to understand the issue on a holistic level. People are people, regardless of their circumstance, and deserve to be treated as such. The homeless of Philadelphia are passed by more than 2,000 people each day. The intention behind Hands of Hope is to send people out with the only goal of not being the 2,001st person to walk by.
“God loves them and does not see them any different, so why should we,” Kieffer says, “We’re all the same when it comes down to it.”
Come join CSM Philadelphia and Joetta as they work on homelessness one conversation at a time.
- Scott Lasley, CSM Philadelphia Apprentice