Let’s be honest. There are some posts you naturally want to read and there are others that just don’t interest you at all. I can post about Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, talk politics, or the uber traffic magnet – Mac computers – and attract at least 4000 reads/post. But bring up something like homelessness and I might be lucky to get 200 readers. That’s 5% for those that don’t have my mad math skills.
So, I’d like to challenge you to do your good deed for the day and read this post about homelessness.
There are two main things I have learned over the years of living and engaging in the urban context.
- Homeless is a very broad word that unfairly is used to portray the totality of a very diverse group of people.
- Homelessness is a very complex and real problem that will only increase in light of the economic downturn.
I don’t have all the answers but it’s simply not acceptable to not do anything. Several weeks ago, a group of pastors I meet with regularly hosted a representative from the mayor’s office of Seattle to ask, push back, and learn about what the city is doing. It was actually pretty helpful. We learned that the city devotes 38 million dollars in various ways to serve the homeless and displaced. But is it making an impact?
But how is the [C]hurch responding? How? I’m more and more convinced that the reason why the [C]hurch feels paralyzed is that our paradigm nearly always involves two things: 1] Sundays and 2]our services in our buildings. If we can just think outside that box, we can unleash so much creative resources. Understand what I’m trying to say. I think Sundays and buildings are perfectly acceptable and important but maybe solutions don’t have to intersect with Sundays and buildings. Literally, we need to think outside the box – or – building.
As I shared above, the “homeless” is a broad word. I don’t want to pretend to be an expert but in the 7+ years at Quest and Q Cafe, we have met and heard from hundreds and hundreds of the homeless community which gave birth to the church’s To The Streets ministry which is still going strong. In short, homelessness is indeed very complex but like many issues, we tend to forget that there are people – human beings – beneath the issues. Like you, they go hungry, cold, lonely, afraid…and there are some who genuinely want to get off the streets. Beyond just compassion, they need dignity and advocates…
We can’t fix everything but maybe we can commit to listening…
Couple months ago, Q Cafe partnered with some friends and hosted a benefit concert for the Nickelsville “Homeless” Community. There were several folks from the homeless encampment that came to share their stories. One of them was a fabulous poet named Aaron “Beau” Beaucage. You can learn more about his story via Dustin or Jeff but in a nutshell this was his story. I want to share a glimpse of his story and his gifts because soon, the world will all forget:
Beau was an amazing guy, who ended up homeless after the trucking industry became too expensive to survive because of rising gas prices and while trying to go out on a fishing boat, missed the opportunity because of a slowdown in the industry. He had only been homeless for about 6 months when he ended up at Nickelsville…
Beau also recently passed away in his sleep…way to young to die.
Quest is hosting an event that – cynically – will likely flop in comparison to the recent conferences and classes we’ve hosted. Why? You know why. But I still want to invite residents of Seattle to come and join us for a Learning Conversation on Monday, March 16 (7pm). I’m hopeful for this event because we’ve gathered some of the most invested practitioners in Seattle for a think tank conversation – in hopes of creative efforts to be part of a solution. These folks aren’t wanna be’s like me who type away behind a computer. These are folks that live out their convictions. DeAnza, our Compassion/Justice pastor, will be hosting the following people:
- Tim Harris (director of Real Change)
- Craig Rennebohm (chaplain to the homeless and author of Souls in the Hands of a Tender God)
- Rev. Rick Reynolds (director of Operation Nightwatch)
- Dustin Cross (Pastor at Nickelsville)
- Bill Kirlin-Hacket (director of InterfaithTask Force on Homelessness)
- Rev. Monica Corsaro (director of Social Justice Ministries at the Church Council of Greater Seattle)
Please join us that night. The event is FREE but you’ll need to RSVP here. Here’s the event on FACEBOOK.
33 Replies to “the blog post no one wants to read”
I’m crushed about Beau’s passing. Thanks for posting this.
@sam: i didn’t really get to know him but i was blown away by his poetry.
You are right, I had no desire to read this! thanks
People may not want to read this but they need to. The “Christian” culture really turns me off. How many pastors write books saying the same exact thing, or why do we need stores like c28?
This post was perfect. Thanks.
PE, it is with me as it is with many i have talked to from all over the country – it’s not that we don’t want to do something to change the paradigm for the homeless, it’s that we’ve sat there on the bus or walked down the street and seen them in their need, had our hearts broken and been completely at a loss for what to do; even after much thought and many conflicting experiences i still want to help the homeless but i don’t know what i can do. i can tell you what i became convicted needs to be done: mature Christians need to open up their homes and their lives to these people – take them in and be what they need, be it family or friends or simply food, a place to sleep and a shower or maybe it is prescription meds and access to a psychiatrist. and i can’t do that, first because i simply cannot afford it and second because the risk is too great for me.
this defeat shames me and because i have no solution i can carry out, i have a very hard time seeing the need to reenter the conversation (i.e. learn more and dialogue more about the issues).
all that’s to say that many of us care but have given up
You have my attention. I like your blog, but I get this as a point of content and concern. My prayers are for the Lord to bless your conversation. And “Lord, change my heart to help more people around me. Burden my heart for what burden’s yours.”
it’s sad to see his talents go to waste. hopefully he’s in the gates of heaven sharing his poetry ^^v
I met Beau a couple times. Once at Nickelsville and once at the benefit concert at the Q-Cafe.
He blew me away with his poetry and his huge heart.
The world is smaller and dimmer for his loss.
I think a lot of people (Christians and non alike) are too concerned about whether they’d be scammed or not, because of the one time someone they knew was scammed by a homeless person.
i bet jesus was scammed.
Thanks, Eugene, for Quest amping up the conversation in Seattle. You said it best to indicate it’s first and foremost about people who are homeless, all of whom have a story to tell that gets truer they more they trust those who listen. Best question you ask relates to money. Seattle does put more money into remedies than any other King County city, but the reality is silos still govern, coordinated help isn’t happening, and especially s evidenced by the sweeps of homeless encampments Seattle conducts, Seattle by and large does not treat the homeless like people worthy of respect. Time for change. Faith communities have got to take the lead as people of faith in the world, beyond Sunday, beyond the building indeed.
Do what you can, man. It cost virtually nothing to make two pb&j sandwhiches and sit down next to someone and share lunch with them.
Quit thinking f them as monolithic and learn some people’s names. Start some conversations. Develop relationships. Love some folks. Not everybody, but somebody.
Thanks, Eugene, for Quest amping up the conversation in Seattle. You said it best to indicate it’s first and foremost about people who are homeless, all of whom have a story to tell that gets truer they more they trust those who listen. Best question you ask relates to money. Seattle does put more money into remedies than any other King County city, but the reality is silos still govern, coordinated help isn’t happening, and especially is evidenced by the sweeps of homeless encampments Seattle conducts, Seattle by and large does not treat the homeless like people worthy of respect. Time for change. Faith communities have got to take the lead as people of faith in the world, beyond Sunday, beyond the building indeed.
agreed with Hugh: “the homeless” is no more a monolith that “the married” or “the males” or “the sighted”. Conversation is key.
Thank you, PE, for reminding us that there are faces, individuals, and stories behind “Homelessness”.
Thanks Eugene for the post and spot lighting Beau.
Beau was only in our (Dustin, Jeff, Brandon, Nickelsville, and I) lives for a few months, yet his impact was far reaching. Not only through his poetry, but also his heart and service to his friends. He consistently went out of his way to help his fellow man in a hugely Jesus like fashion.
At the memorial service we had for him last week, there were scores of people who wept and shared what he meant to them. One guy literally talked for 40 minuets sharing how Beau had impacted his life. It was amazing.
Beau is gone, and one of the best ways we can honor his memory is to remember he wasn’t alone. There are still so many people in his situation that need friends and a place at the table with the rest of us.
I went down to Nickelsville on Wednesday with my family. It was the day before Willoweve’s birthday, and when Mario, one of our friends found out, he told her to close her eyes. He ran back to his tent and retrieved a small polar bear stuffed animal he had just gotten that day, and gave it to her.
It was a brilliant gift from a brilliant guy.
I am constantly amazed by the generosity and love we get from the non-housed we encounter. They have a voice and place with us in the Kingdom just waiting to be heard and explored.
Wow. I am stunned as well by Beau’s passing. I met him multiple times when our CGroup visited Nickelsville, at the QCafe Benefit concert and at the Thanksgiving Homeless Dinner.
Sadly I’ll be out of town for the Learning Conversation. Any hope for investing in recording equipment for these kinds of events in the future (depth classes, etc too)? Either audio only or even video would be fantastic and expose these issues to the larger world via podcats & video webcast.
I think this discussion is good and right, but…I couldn’t look beyond the irony that you’re hosting a conference for the homeless — at Quest — while you implore us to “think outside the building”.
It’s apparent that this issue is not a Christian one, but a community one, and I get the feeling that a conference with such powerful speakers will be attended by an even more diverse slice of the Seattle community if it’s held, say, on UW’s campus. Who knows: you may even witness a slew of people who wrote off church long ago become so engaged in the conversation that you make peacemakers out of a bigger lot than you ever imagined.
Thanks for this post. I find that, rather than not wanting to hear about homelessness, many like to hear about it, shake their heads sadly, say a prayer and move on. It is what has inspired us to try and be a different kind of community (www.littleflowers.ca). We aren’t making a broad impact, but hopefully a meaningful one to the small group of people who we share life with in our inner city neighbourhood. Have hope.
Some years ago I had the blessing to speak with Millard Fuller, recently deceased founder of Habitat for Humanity,on a couple of occasions. With regards to some new and ongoing struggles we were experiencing he stated: “…we know, on occasion, we will be taken or even cheated, but we cannot allow that to stop us from doing what we do..” He said this full of joy. This helps me tremendously as I am tempted to make presumptions while acting in mercy.
Eugene, may the Lord give you wisdom, discernment, the love of Christ as your church seeks to minister to the homeless. Have the leaders involved thought of asking the chaplain service from the Veterans Administration Puget Sound if they might be interested in participating or contributing? The VA estimates that 25% of homeless are vets: http://www1.va.gov/pugetsound/page.cfm?pg=2#Homeless There are so many contributing factors to homelessness, and I know that some VA’s are trying to reach out more to vets who are homeless.
@m: good pushback. but you forgot to give us points for avoiding sundays.
Thanks for your comments. I’m not in Seattle, but Alabama, and I read your posts often. My suggestion, to anyone interested in knowing more about/doing more for the homeless, is to volunteer. I do outreach through a local homeless day shelter. I go to the camps and under the bridges with food, blankets, clothes, etc. donated by my church & others, and individuals. I talk to people and get to know them. I visit with the ones who are hanging out at the shelter too. I have learned so much from volunteers who have been at it much longer than I have. One is a retired psychiatrist, another a minister. Others are from all walks of life. They are Christians, Jews, atheists, and more. It has been a huge learning experience. I love it and have been blessed in so many ways by being involved. There are many other ways to help. Some drive folks to the local community free clinic in their church vans. Others come and serve meals, do worship services or play music on site. There are other agencies who need help of all kinds, i.e. sorting clothes, cooking, serving food, giving haircuts, rides to GED classes, etc. I am also a volunteer in our municipal mental health court, for NAMI, and see some of the First Stop clients there. I am able to be an informal go between for the case workers and judge. Checks and prayers are always needed and welcome. But, we need more people to be the hands and feet of Christ.
that video shows one face of Jesus, right there.
Our culture highly values comfort. We do want to help needs, but we feel powerless in the face of the immense suffering we see, and immediately feel engulfed by a feeling of futility. It is then easier to escape in entertainment then to read posts like this one.
Wow. That is an amazing poem. Sorry I could not hear more of his work.
Eugene – I work with the homeless and struggling families and individuals here in Melbourne Australia and while I cannot be there for this event I would be interested to hear more about what transpires and is said there.
My prayers are with you and the Quest team.
in light of your poverty initiative, i thought this new movie coming out might interest you:
it’s my understanding that the director of the film is originally from the same neighborhood that The Simple Way is located in Philadelphia.
Hey, a live feed for those of us in Los Angeles would be nice next time… ;.)
I’m bringing a group of students up this weekend to do various service projects around Seattle. On Monday we’ll be hanging out with some homeless folks and providing them with socks, food, and conversation. I was wondering if maybe we could connect about this event. I would like to share some stuff with our students. Obviously I can’t attend (I’m in Salem and it already started), but I would love to hear from you about how it went and what you took from it.
Feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
I am saddened that I heard about this event just now. I was a homeless teen on the streets of Seattle, before some caring adults stepped forward to serve as mentors and opened their doors to me. That was over 30 years ago, but the memories and gratitude are still vivid.
your right PE. i have yet to see a snazzy christian conference simply highlighting local homelessness. who would dare put so much “effort” into such a thing…
I read everything you wrote and everything everyone else had to say about the homeless. I also read about a homeless Vet freezing to death in Oregon last winter. Some of these people are beaten to death by kids who think they are worthless bumbs. Others people wants them off their sidewalks. Some cities pass laws against people begging for money. Don’t sit on my side walk and don’t ask for money.
I am glad to see that there are people out there who take some time to help some one who has nothing at all.