Angie Miller is the Life Skills Coordinator at Safe Harbor House. Her role involves ensuring that our programming effectively trans our residents in practical life skills for healthy adult functioning, such a budgeting and financial literacy, meal planning, cooking, cleaning and home maintenance, and more. Angie is also an Ohio Certified Peer Supporter, a Certified Christian Life Coach, and has years of ministry experience including working with incarcerated women through Kairos Prison Ministry, and as a volunteer leader for her local Celebrate Recovery community. Angie also has a fledgling non-profit which is seeking to address homelessness in her community, which bring us to the topic of her blog post. This is an especially relevant subject as the coldest months of the year are now upon us. Read along for some education, inspiration, and practical next steps!
We pray you had a Merry Christmas and wish for you a Happy New Year, dear Champion!
On any given morning, I wake up and crawl out of my warm, cozy bed to start my day. Right next to my bedroom is the bathroom, where I can get a shower. Then I make my way to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, and the next hour or so is a blur of zipping from room to room to complete my morning routine, all in preparation to get me out the door and on my way to whatever comes next.
How does this routine differ from someone who is homeless? Well, for starters they are not waking up in a warm and cozy bed. When someone is homeless, they may be waking up anywhere from a tent out in the woods, a car, under a tarp or sleeping bag (if they're lucky), or in an abandoned house. And their situation is anything but stable.
The rest of a morning routine for an individual struggling with homelessness is going to look very different than mine. How will a homeless individual take a shower? How will they grab a cup of coffee? Where will they get clean clothes to put on? How about accessing food, let alone cooking it? What if they need to leave their shelter to go find food or other resources: can they be sure their shelter and any belongings they have will be there when they return?
All of these potential struggles, as well as many more, are very real and daunting issues that individuals dealing with homelessness face on a daily basis. These nuanced and compounded issues can keep people stuck in the cycle of homelessness. Many believe that homelessness is merely a result of poor life choices, including problems with substance abuse. The truth is that an estimated 50% of homeless individuals struggle with substance use disorders - but does this disqualify them from our compassion and service? Many people find themselves without a home after a variety of different life experiences including loss of job, family disputes, health issues, and many other life-altering, unpredictable and tragic circumstances. If you've been following along with our blog series which started with a piece on trauma, can you imagine how some of the Safe Harbor women might have ended up without stable housing?
As a person who experienced homelessness for a season when I was a young adult, I can tell you that all of the obstacles mentioned above can keep people trapped. For starters, being groomed and dressed appropriately, as well as having reliable transportation, are the bare minimum resources needed to find and maintain employment. And many communities do not have sufficient resources available to help the homeless population change their circumstances.
Homelessness is a complex issue that does not have a "one size fits all" fix. But we can start by acknowledging that our homeless friends are real people with real feelings and real needs. We have an incredible opportunity to show the love of Christ when we encounter our friends struggling with homelessness. A warm smile with eye contact, or kind words of blessing, go a long way. Simply taking a few minutes to be present with someone in their struggle is a powerful way to honor the dignity of their humanity. Out of all the sad things I have heard doing homeless outreach, "I feel unseen, like people make every effort to not make eye contact. I feel like I don't matter." hits my heart the hardest.
On a tangible level, keeping a spare blanket, pair of gloves, snacks or water bottles in your car to have on hand when meeting someone in need is a small but practical way to practice kindness. When you give an item or a kit way, replenish your stock. I also know someone who prayerfully budgets a specific amount monthly for benevolence giving. He takes this amount out of his bank account in cash and keeps it in his wallet. Rather than being overly concerned with trying to judge who will be a good steward of this money, he simply trusts the Lord to guide him to the people who are in need throughout the month. When the budgeted amount is gone, it's gone until the next month. Having an intentional plan like this allows him to circumvent a lot of the guesswork and "what ifs?" that prevent many of us from giving tangible help to individuals that are homeless.
These things will not solve the housing crisis in our communities, but you may make a far greater impact in an individual's life than you think. Don't refuse to take any step simply because you can't solve the entire crisis. And while you're at it, don't forget to pray - God is working on behalf of the poor and marginalized among us, and what a privilege to partner with Him in this holy work!
Homelessness is a real problem in Clark County, even more so since the COVID-19 epidemic began. Our local shelter, Interfaith Hospitality Network, is doing excellent work, but they are overwhelmed by the increasing need. You can learn more about how to help IHN on their website, www.ihn.com/provide-help/
Also, the Nehemiah Foundation has formed the "Faith-Community Crisis Response Team, " whose purpose is to help bring coordination, collaboration, and streamlined communication within the local Church in times of local emergencies. they are working with other organizations to address the homelessness crisis in our community. Contact Amy Willmann at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to get involved with the team. The Street Outreach Team, which is a project within this initiative, is currently collecting men's winter wear. Email Amy to learn where to donate these items.
If you know a women struggling with homelessness who is also dealing with trauma and/or substance abuse issues, let her know she can contact Safe Harbor at any time at 937-717-5908.
Lastly, please prayerfully consider giving a donation of any amount to Safe Harbor at https://give.idonate.com/safe-harbor-house/2021-christmas. Happy New Year to you and yours!