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November 24, 2005



Great question. How many homeless people do you have living with you? I ask this with all gentleness and suspect that your answer will either be the reason that the majority of us (including me) do not bring people in or it will serve as a model and encouragment for the saints.

Oh, ya. I love The Door!


since i live with elisa, i could elaborate on the reasons why we don't have any homeless people living with us. but honestly, i think the point of this article was not that we should bring homeless people into our own homes (neccessarily), but that if every church congregation would take responsibility for just one or two, that would go a long way.

we all know the risks and problems with opening our homes to homeless strangers, particularly if we have young children. but most churches are equipped with the resources and manpower to handle one homeless person or family, yet they don't. that was the point of elisa's post and her final question.



I agree with both of you about our churches having the resources to accompany the homeless in life and think it would be a beautiful thing if we all did that. When I was in college I worked among the homeless and at times brought people in to my home to stay for different periods of tiime. I was single and was able to do that. But it got really hard and looking back on it, I am not too sure if I did it more for them or for myself. Meaning that I may have done it to be radical or idealistic. Regradless of my intentions I have to see that someone had a bed to sleep in for a bit.
elisa, thank you so much for writing about homelessness. It sparked something in me that I have not felt for awhile. PLEASE keep writing and sharing your heart. I have heard great things about the 2 of you from Paul.


great discussion. i have always been sensitive about injustice as well...and have volunteered at homeless shelters and other places in an effort to understand this issue in our community. while there are many people out there who are homeless and eager for a hand up and some compassion, there is also a small perecentage of people who choose to continue to be homeless for some reason, even though they could change their situation if they desired. i wonder if you have any thoughts on this aspect of homelessness? (p.s. i agree with mark--keep writing! i wish i had been around when y'all were here in SA)

Elisa Cottrell

Thanks for the comments guys! I'm sorry it's been so long.

Mark, I'd love to hear more about your personal experience of inviting people into your home. Would you like to do a guest blog spot?

Pamela, I'm intrigued by how often the subject of the homeless choosing to remain homeless comes up. You are right in saying that it is a very small percentage of people. In my extremely limited experience, it seems that the number of times the topic is discussed almost outnumbers the people on the street who choose that reality for themselves. I think this is because it somehow makes us feel better about a dismally huge social problem that is overwhelming to those of us who actually think about it. Thanks for being one of those people!


Guest blog spot? Wow. How about a comment about one interaction that really changed the way I viewed things. I worked at a day shelter/social services center during college and had a friendship with a guy named Pete (named changed). Pete was about 30 and a homosexual prostitute that came from a really hard family I knew well. At one point he had nowhere to go so he came to stay with me for about a week. I had known Pete for about 2 years at this point and trusted him. I got to see Pete look for jobs with no luck, process through abusive relationships with him and learn more about myself and my stereotypes. Pete was a real individual with real feelings and a lot to teach me. If I took the time I could probably begin to remember all the details, but this story has remained a constant reminder to enter all relationships as a student at some level. Hardest part is that after a few days of working at McDonalds he quit and moved back in with his abusive boyfriend. It hurt to see him go back to a live he so wanted to leave. I don't think that Pete went back to this abusive relationship because he wanted to be hurt, or that he wanted to go back, but because of his addiction to dysfunctional relationships.


Well Elisa, you know that the issue of homelessness is probably one of the issues I'm most passionate about and at the same time feel such hoplessness for. If only it would be as simple for a church or someone to open their home to someone who is homeless. After being educated in college on issues of homelessness where I was told statistically most of the homeless were women and children, I went to work at a shelter where the majority of my clients were mentally ill or dealing with drug addiction. (Something I wasn't prepared for)I never met a woman that was in her right mind chosing to be homeless. I've never heard of this phenomena. I met women who thought people were in conspiracy to kill them. I met women whose families would call to check in on them but couldn't visit because they were thought to be clones of the real family.

I think the thing I struggle with the most is that women like this are completly not in their right mind, they can't make the choice to help themselves but we can't send them to a hospital until they present a very real case that they are going to be a harm to themselves or they sleep on the street, they're in dangerous situations nightly, and nothing can be done until that harm occurs. So many of them think the medication is part of an evil plan...someones conspiracy to control them. They often turn to drugs to turn off the voices in their head and ease the pain. I worked at a women's shelter so it's only women I've had contact with but there were several categories of homeless women. There were mentally ill street women who had been on the streets coming to our shelter for years and years. There were women that were using drugs or turning tricks to buy drugs who would stop in every one in a while, some of them mentally ill as well. We had several with tragic stories from other countries and we had a few that for one reason or another ended up homeless and didn't have the family support. I never had a woman tell me she was chosing to be homeless with the rest of her sentence making any logical sense. So I guess I feel the most hopeless when it comes to the women who are mentally ill. They can't chose a better life and the laws don't allow us to do it for them.


One more thing... "It sounds so simple, why isn't it happening?" Because it's dirty, it's messy, it's inconvenient. It's inviting a huge unknown into your life. know i could go on and on with this topic but I'll stop now!


so true.


Thank you for writing this post. Years ago I woerkd as a social worker withthe homeless in Tacoma washington. And it was then that I realized, after hearing so many stories, how close most of us in teh middle class are from being homeless. it is an unacknowledged and feared fact , that uless we see it in others and sto p perpetuating the myth of blame (well, they must have done drugs, gambled, cheated, lied, or made very very very bad choices) we will always have it hanging over our own heads.Great blog, glad I fouond it.

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