Tuesday, June 23, 2009

48 Hours of Homelessness

by Tim K. Snyder

Re-posted from: www.curatingthejourney.org

48 Hours of Homelessness: Reflections on the MLF Street Retreat, Part I.

This past weekend, four of us from the Co-Op Community joined our friends at Mobile Loaves and Fishes for a Street Retreat -- 48 hours on the streets of Austin, living with our city's homeless and working poor. I'm going to write a bit and include some reflections/media on the event.


DAY # 1 - Being Cared for by the Poor

Friday, June 19, 2009. 5:00pm (CST)
.Ten of us (some of us good friends, some folks we just met) were dropped off at Woolridge Square Park with only the clothes on our backs, no money (actually I accidentally forget to leave my wallet in the car...), a blanket, and our prayers that God would be present despite our serious second thoughts about this whole idea. It was strange mixture of excitement, nervousness, and curiosity. And then, of course, there was a most pressing question: where would God show up in this?

The four of us from The Netzer Co-Op included, myself, Brianna Morris-Brock, Ryan Sladek and Ashley Dellagiacoma. We have all been involved in our community's Likewise Experiements, where we've tried to take Jesus seriously in his call to be about caring for the poor and building relationships with them, but this was a whole new level.

We spent most of the afternoon in the park and met several homeless friends. We heard some of their stories and we began an indepth conversation with a woman named Kim. Kim had been on and off the streets and this time she had been camping out by Riverside Drive for two months. She made a special point to invite us to come sleep out at her camp. She was insistent that we had a safe place to sleep. Since we had two girls with us, we readily accepted the offer. On the bus ride across town we heard from her two traveling companions -- Josh and Karl. Both had recently become homeless (though both had spent time on the streets before). Josh had just lost his job as a welder -- this economy has had a dramatic impact on the poor, though we never hear that end from the media. Josh and Karl told us stories about the harshness of the streets and laced it with humor about being Irish. Josh was from Boston originally and his dad was a lead guitarist in several famous rock bands.

We got to the camp and after being shown around, we explored the near by watering hole. We felt more like we were just camping with friends rather than experiencing homelessness.

That first day I remember several key moments. The first was at 3:50pm. For some reason I thought our meet up time was at 7pm. I was getting directions to the church when I realized we were scheduled to meet up at 4:00pm. I had ten minutes to get ready - shit! At that moment I seriously thought about not going. Maybe it was an easy out. Maybe this was going to be lame. Deep down I had reservations and I wanted some excuse why I couldn't follow Jesus onto the streets -- I, like the rich young ruler (see Mark 10), had too much I was leaving behind.

Karl Barth says, 'Follow Me' as in the case of the rich young ruler is a phenomenon that is absolutely terrifying in its impossibility." (in The Call to Discipleship). Now I get that.

This month at the Co-Op we've been talking about sharing our resources with those around us. I've been struck by two things that came up at our Jesus at a Pub convos:

+ The number of "provoking" questions about whether or not we are enabling them by helping them. They are obvious questions, but while meant to be "provoking," they seem to be more of an excuse not to give.

++ We talked about hospitality as both welcoming others into our spaces and being open to being invited by others into their spaces.

I didn't expect to be so quickly embraced by those who were homeless. We were deeply cared for in Kim's camp. They gave us a safe place to sleep. They made sure we had food in our stomachs. They made sure we knew where water was and a public bathroom. They made sure we knew where the watering hole was. They made sure we knew how to avoid police in the neighborhood who are known for harassing the homeless.

It's not like we all didn't have thoughts about whether or not we were safe or whether these people were trustworthy. It's just that those doubt were proven wrong -- we were cared for beyond our expectations, by friends we met only hours before. We were not on a Likewise Experiment trying to care for the poor. We were being cared for by the poor. To say it was humbling doesn't even begin to express it...

(To be continued...)

Next Post in Series: Part II: Day # 2 - Kairos Time Kicks In.

For Twitter Microblog posts live from the streets search: #homeless. #mlfnow.


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