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Walking in the Shoes of a Homeless Man

homeless bill standing may 6


Mississippi like many places in the south has a transient homeless population. The homeless in this state are drawn to the urban areas in search of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. They lust for a life off the streets. The number varies at any given time and the majority of the homeless in the capital city are men.

William and I volunteer for various missions that aid the homeless. There are many shelters available for assistance. These shelters provide services that will help get them off the street and programs for substance abuse if they choose to enter it.

This is the story of a homeless man on the streets of the inner city. The circumstances of this story are a compilation of the many stories that we hear from the men on the street.  The ministries we volunteer for generally have conversations with men and their stories are more often heard.

John steps off the bus at the inner city bus stop. The night is warm as he searches for a place to spend the night. There has been talk from the last town about how life is better in the inner city. This night he walks around the corner and spots another homeless man.

The other man’s name is Joe and he has lived on these streets for more than thirty years. His skin is wrinkled and hair dark gray. It has been a hard life on the street filled with alcohol and drugs. He looks much older than his fifty years. Joe calls out to John to come and join him in a drink.

Homeless people often congregate together on the streets. It is a social network that provides a certain amount of safety. There are gangs in the inner city that will steal money and beat a homeless person found alone. The social network also details where the best place to get food, clothing, and shelter. This network also discusses the best places to beg and hustle money if one chooses to take this route.

John joins Joe and takes a swig of the whiskey that is offered. Joe begins interviewing John to find out his story. John begins his story telling of a neglected childhood. His father left the family when he was about two years old and has not been  seen or heard from since. John’s mother was addicted to drugs and would often leave the apartment for days. Often there was no food or heat leaving John and his sister hungry and cold.

John became homeless at age fifteen and the street became his life. Ten years have now passed and the future looks grim. He was given a choice in the last city he called home to either leave or go to jail. A woman gave him bus fare and now this new city is his home.

Joe tells John that this is a good city to roam the streets. Every day there is a community center that will serve lunch to all people. There are also several local churches that have a ministry that brings food and comforting words every Monday and Wednesday. Many of the local restaurants will provide free food each night to cut down on the harassment of their customers. Hunger will not be a problem in this city.

This city has an occupational center that provides a free place to spend the days, do laundry, internet service, a postal address, and help with job placement. On cold winter nights the occupational center is a night shelter. The people at the center are friendly and helpful.

John smiles and thinks that he has entered paradise. Joe explains to him that the reality of crime in the area has made these places unsafe at times. There are groups of homeless men that create issues due to alcohol and drugs. At times guns are fired and people are killed by the violence.

Six months pass and John’s life is again in turmoil. His alcohol usage has increased and now has a problem with crack cocaine. He has learned the language of the street and manipulation has taken control. The people who have tried to help are now his enemies. John has learned how to tell people what they want to hear in order to have money for alcohol and drugs. He has tattered clothing and is thin. Alcohol and the crack cocaine now rule him.

One night John and Joe are in the woods with other homeless men trying to warm themselves with a small fire. A big fire will attract the attention of local authorities and many of the men have warrants for their arrest due to crimes committed. Suddenly two men get into an argument over a drug deal gone bad. One man pulls out a gun and begins shooting into the crowd.

John dives for cover and is spared. Joe is not as lucky and a bullet hits him in the stomach. No one calls for help since all the men do not wish to attract the attention of law enforcement. Joe dies a painful death alone from internal bleeding.

John is scared and has a moment of epiphany. He has a vision of his life from the beginning to this point in time. There is a choice to be made. John can either live or die. The next morning John walks to the community center and enrolls in an alcohol and drug rehab facility. He is ready to change and get off the street.

One year passes and John is now working at the community center. He struggles everyday to remain sober. John now has a new life with a job, home, and friends. For the first time in his life there is food, clothing, and shelter. He relates his story to anyone who will listen. Now his goal in life is to help other men get off the streets.

William and I meet men like John every time we volunteer at community shelters. John is one of the lucky men that we meet. The majority of the homeless men are too far entrenched in alcohol and drug issues to want to get off the street. This is unfortunately a cycle that is hard to defeat.

We are grateful and blessed for the opportunity to meet and work with the homeless. They remind us of how blessed we are and how much work there is to be done to fight this problem. We pray to God for the day when the suffering will end and for His guidance in how to solve the problem of homelessness.

Copyright 2017 Debbie Pierce


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Volunteering: Infusing Life With Joy


We live in a world that is filled with turmoil. There is war, poverty, and disease. The news leads us to believe that this what consumes the world and there is no hope. Many people believe that there are several solutions to world issues. I believe that one of the best ways to conquer world issues is to begin at home.

Volunteering has been a part of my life for sometime. The concept of using the gifts that God gave me is appealing. These are some of the ways that I have been using these talents for the last several years in my local community.

Hunger is an issue in many inner city communities. This is often a hidden issue that not many people realize is occurring. We are used to seeing the severe effects of hunger on the television. But here in America there are many people who are not able to feed their families for the entire month. These people have jobs but the money will run out before the month ends.

One solution to this issue is the food banks, community centers, and churches in my local area. Many people frequent these places in hopes of help in getting enough food to fill the end of the month until the next paycheck.

blueberry cobbler may 14

It is easy to help these centers by buying additional food every week and making a donation each month. A large number of people are reached through these services and it is a great feeling to know that I helped someone in their time of crisis.

Another issue in my local community is homelessness. There are a fair number of people without a home in the inner city. The city that I live in provides a fair amount of services to aid in this issue.

Volunteering in local shelters and in missions designed to help the homeless is a great way to help conquer this issue. Many homeless people are grateful for someone willing to bring them food and clothing. It is a comfort to many of them just to have someone listen to the issues that caused them to become homeless.

homeless bill standing may 6

A simple way that people can help the homeless is to fill a small plastic bag with soap, some change, toiletries, and crackers or small cans of meat. This small gesture will help many of the homeless survive until they are ready to seek help for the issues that sent them to the street.

Medical insurance is an issue that is greatly debated in this country for the last several years. It is not an easy issue to solve. A part of the solution to the issue in my local community is to develop small free or low-cost clinics to the uninsured and high deductible health insurance population. This population is quite large.

I volunteer at a church based low-cost clinic once a month. This clinic is busy and is filled with people having minor medical issues. These clinics are not designed to deal with major illnesses or disease processes.

It is a blessing to be able to aid people in the clinic and provide basic health information. There is a lack of education on many of the common disease processes in this country. The people entering the clinic are given a basic health screening and seen by a doctor. These clinics are staffed by volunteers and there is no compensation.

For many of the people who enter this clinic it is the only medical care that they will receive. Education is important and the people we served repeatedly tell us how grateful they are for this service.

Another area that I volunteer in is summer camp for inner city children. These camps aid the children in areas that are often not available in other  areas of their lives. One summer I taught piano to a small group of students.

One day each week for two months they were given lessons in how to play the piano and music. Several of these children were quite gifted and acquired enough knowledge in music to apply to the arts programs at their schools.

Volunteering has been a great blessing to me. I am unable to change all of the world’s issues. My soul is nourished by the things that I have learned from the people who I have met. They have given me far more than the talents that I have shared with them.

Community service in the form of volunteering is easy and only takes a small amount of time. Can you find the time to give of your talents to solve some issues in a your part of the world?

copyright 2017 Debbie Pierce

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