Faces of Homelessness

On Monday, we spent the morning touring the neighborhood of Luther Place Memorial Church and Thomas Circle. We learned about the challenges of gentrification and lack of affordable housing.

After lunch, we packed up outreach packs. Thanks to a Thrivent Action Grant, we were able to pack over 50 bags. The packs were full of items like bottled water, toothbrushes (thanks for the donation, Northwest Dental!), snacks, soap, lotion, a t-shirt, and new socks.

We then heard from James and Chon, two speakers from The National Coalition for the Homeless, who shared with us their stories of falling into and back out of seasons of experiencing homelessness. They were vulnerable as they shared their personal stories. They then took us out to a local park to pass out the outreach packs. Nick B. shares that “the speakers were very impactful because they showed that what we think homelessness is, is not what it actually is.”

Megan L shares: “The experience taught me a lot about what homelessness really is and how the reality is so different from the stereotypes we place on homeless people. Both of the speakers’ stories were very different from what I have heard before. They both talked about how they were making good money and had a great life, and a turn of events happened and everything changed and they became homeless. That taught me that no matter how successful you are, everything can change in the matter of days!”

Chaperone Ann Leland shares: “After our learning, we went out to hand out kits with basic necessities (including: water and socks … aka ‘silver and gold’) that we had assembled. We learned how to approach homeless people in a more dignified way. It was amazing to me that rephrasing the way you offer a gift can make the entire difference between acceptance in a dignified manner vs. taking a handout. I immediately began thinking of how we can translate this to our own community.”

Derek B. found the experience powerful. “I liked handing out bags to people in the park because they were so grateful for them.”

Jeremy S. “learned that our nation’s capital is similar, but also very different than our hometown of Rochester. Both have a homeless population, and even though it is our capital, it doesn’t mean everything is good and well there.”

Chaperone Bob Jenkins (now affectionally nicknamed “the Legend”) plans to bring this experience back to Rochester. “I plan to have few such bags prepared to pass out when I walk around Rochester – because we have homelessness too.”

The rest of the evening included a beautiful space to debrief the day and wrestle with Matthew 25. We shared places and spaces we saw and experienced hope, things that challenged us and stirred within us, and finished with prayer.

As we processed our experiences, we were surrounded by worship music, the coming and goings of traffic, and the Capitol and Washington Monument. To cap it all off, we walked and wandered the entire mall.

Mia H. has been to DC many times, so offers a unique perspective. “It was really interesting to see DC from a different perspective. Since I have been coming here with my grandparents, we have always been tourists and never went to see all of the other people in the city and the poverty in the community. Now I can see it from both perspectives and I really enjoy that.”

We had a full and beautiful day. We were tired and sweaty but so grateful for this community of people, for the ways God has showed up to us, and for this opportunity we have to experience this amazing city together.

Thank you, Zumbro friends, for making this experience possible for our young people and us.

Jen & Pastor Lisa

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