Homeless in Monroeville
July 18, 2019
We have all heard the word 'homeless', but, what does it mean to be homeless? How does one get that way and what can we do as a community to help?
Several years ago, I boarded the Bethlehem Baptist Association van with my family and headed out for Fort Worth, Texas. I had been invited to speak at 'Beautiful Feet' ministries. 'Beautiful Feet' (Thefeet.org) is a mission that feeds and aides the homeless in the Dallas, Fort Worth area. The van was full of donated clothes from the people of Monroeville. 'Beautiful Feet' has been served since it’s beginning in 1981 by Director Mike Myers and his wife Sara who have family here in Monroeville.
The donations were well received and welcomed. Mike wanted me to get a feel for what it meant to be homeless. According to the U.S. Department of Housing, being 'literally homeless' means an individual or family who lacks a fixed regular and adequate nighttime residence. What I saw was people with no residence. They lived in what was called a 'tent city'. There were a hundred or more people on the site living in tents and under tarps on a vacant lot owned by the city. I talked to many people and most were not bitter about their situation. I invited them to the service the next day and guess what, many of them showed up even though it was snowing.
Now let’s fast forward to last Sunday morning back here in warm Monroeville. As I departed my Sunday morning ministry at the Monroe County Jail, I was told a lady was there asking for the chaplain. She told me her story while never really asking for help. Before last Sunday, I had never come face to face with anyone homeless here in Monroeville. I took her to the local We Care clothing shop here on the square and helped her get started putting her life back together. We Care has been so helpful to so many. They sell donated clothing at a very reasonable price to the public.
I will call the lady in my story Joy, for she was a joy to be around. How did she get Homeless? Many think only those with a mental issue, or maybe a drug or alcohol problem are homeless. In Joy’s case, it was a series of bad fate and bad decisions. She did not ask for money or sympathy, only direction and advise.
Pastor Steve Dunn, Director of the Bethlehem Baptist Association, said that he had helped a young couple with two kids who were homeless a few weeks ago.
“There is no central data being gathered to determine the exact numbers,” he said. “I believe there is a need for a countywide homeless ministry the churches could turn to.”
Joy was able to find a safe refuge and with help, she found a hand up. Monday morning Joy was offered a job which she started Tuesday.
What can we do as a community when this happens? Bill Curtin, pastor of Monroeville United Methodist Church believes that proper education for our youth is one way out.
“It is skills students need to be successful,” he said. “We have had great success with the “HIPPY” Program.”
Being homeless is not just a big city problem. While I do not believe we can completely solve the homeless problem here in Monroeville, we can reach out to those who want that 'Hand Up'. You can volunteer at the Red Cross or be an instructor for the HIPPY program. Let’s put our desire to help in motion, join in and lend a hand.