Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Invisible Homeless Among Us

I am not an expert when it comes to serving our homeless population. But I am very aware of some of the hurdles that we face as we strive to actively express compassion to such individuals. Drug addiction and severe mental illness are among the list of difficulties. In recent months, it has become very clear to me that there is another kind of homeless population. There are the invisible homeless.

It seems like a day does not go by that I do not encounter someone who feels abandoned, lonely, or cast away. As far as I know, all of these individuals have a bed to crawl into at the end of a long day. Some of them  even live in beautiful homes. But nevertheless they feel homeless. 

I refer to them as the invisible homeless, because it is nearly impossible to recognize such people simply by observing their outward demeanor. They are gainfully employed. They have cars to drive and nice clothes to wear. But inwardly they are struggling.  Their family has rejected them.  They have made really poor life choices. Relationships have unraveled. In other cases, they have lost loved ones. Deep regrets are an integral part of their daily existence.

How do we serve this segment of the homeless population?  How do we touch the hearts of the invisible homeless?  I know there are hurdles to be jumped over in serving them too. But I only have one idea for now. Perhaps more will be forthcoming. But for now I only have one…

If we are interested loving the invisible homeless, then we have to start by acknowledging their existence in the first place. When I am walking in downtown Chicago or in parts of Austin, I know it is really tempting to just ignore that guy who is obviously homeless.  It is far less complicated if I just keep on walking. And the same is true in regard to the invisible homeless. 

If the invisibility is going to disappear, then we have to be willing to get in the relational trenches with people.  We have to be willing to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  In fact, we need to listen long enough and carefully enough to hear the real story. And when the story starts to surface, we can’t run for the hills. That is when the privilege of loving the invisible homeless begins.

 My one idea therefore is all about acknowledging.  We are able to recognize that a person is among the invisible homeless, because we choose to care enough to listen. Could it be that such a person could actually move out of that state of invisible homelessness a result?  I realize such situations are complicated, but I do believe that is a start… What homeless person will you touch this week?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you John. I believe you were meaning for me to hear this. The struggles that are tearing my heart up right now I feel will be here for a while. I have always said to myself "nobody will know" I wish I had someone to hear me other than God

Dawn Price said...

Beautiful John -- and so true. In fact this is what connects us to the actual homeless -- at some level we are all broken, even if the breaks have long since healed. We are all connected. Once we acknowledge it within ourselves, it is easier to acknowledge it in others. Beautiful message!