Homeless: In the Shelter of our Hearts

The following post is from our Newsletter Archives. It first appeared in our Winter 1994 Newsletter.*

"da homeless mother and child" by the artofgriffin.

“da homeless mother and child” by the artofgriffin.

by S. Mary Margaret McKenzie, VHM

Homelessness happens: tenants have to move because a landlord can’t meet the mortgage payment; a single parent needs more space for growing children; a family of nine cannot stay indefinitely with already crowded relatives, but what the law requires for housing seven children is not affordable; a person in recovery from chemical abuse slips, loses his job and therefore, his apartment; a young woman volunteering her time and talent for the enrichment of children no longer has a place when the outreach is cut back; a young mother involved in some “activity” has to move before she is evicted or reported; another mother away from her abusive husband with two small children knows the quickest eviction of all from a catastrophic fire. Theres are our neighbors, our friends, and their options are few.

“..until we could enter into our own suffering, we would not be able to support others in theirs.” 

The man in recovery sleeps on a shelter floor for the first time. The large family is dreading the shelter, but if they go, they will get emergency help from subsidizing housing which has a two year waiting list. Without newspaper, phone or car the long search for a “place to stay” begins. We have never heard the homeless talk about a place to “live.

It did not occur to me as a child, even though I grew up during the Depression, that homelessness could happen. Children in North Minneapolis know that it does. The young boy whose name means, “heart of the valley” came home from school one day to find that he was moving that afternoon. His mother told him to come with his little sister to say “goodbye” to us. They appeared at the door during Evening Prayer in too much shock and pain to talk, just looking at us out of a numbness that was holding on to everything. They left with many embraces and a care package. Each time they turned to wave, another one of us began to cry.

“Prayer does bond us in our mutual suffering.” 

Archbishop Roach warned us that it would be “hard, very difficult, terrible, awful” to stand with such pain and be helpless. We were not expecting it to come in the homelessness that seems to have plagued the neighborhood this winter. We have often recalled the counsel of Bishop Carlson that until we could enter into our own suffering, we would not be able to support others in theirs.

“Windsock time” with the children has prepared us for “phone time” with some who use our phone to make real estate appointments. While they wait for calls to be returned, we pray with them or they join us for one of Hours of the Office. One woman brought her sister-in-law along just for the prayer. Prayer does bond us in our mutual suffering, and once prayer brought a friend willing to make his properties affordable to to any reliable tenants we could recommend. Also, there is that amazing grace that flows in and through and around us when the homeless stand by us, too, in our helplessness in helping them and we learn that the “heart of the valley” is not the terrain of hopelessness.

 

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Original article: Homelessness by SMM Winter Newsletter 1994

 

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