By Tim Durkin, Baptist Family & Children’s Services
It’s autumn now, tending towards winter. The time of year when sleeping out becomes less and less possible. You woke up with a thin layer of frost on your blanket this morning. It’s time to start thinking about cold-weather shelters.
But the sun is up and so are you, heading to one of the downtown street corners to ask the commuters for a little help–some change, some food. A kind man in a Cadillac yesterday gave you an Orioles jacket he had in his trunk. It still smells a bit like tire rubber.
You made a new sign last week, and it’s been working pretty well. “HOMELESS VET. GOD BLESS THE USA.” You used red, white, and blue crayons on the USA part, and it looks good.
Not everybody on the street who claims to be a vet actually is one, but you’re telling the truth. You served as an MP at a camp in Kosovo during the war there back in ‘99. After your tour was over it was time to get out of the Army but you didn’t have a good next step. You tried some construction work, later some landscaping, but you had this alcohol habit and bosses figured out that you weren’t too reliable. Your counselor at the VA recommended AA, but it didn’t work for you. Never made it past step 1, really.
Homelessness came on so quickly you almost didn’t see it coming. But after you missed the rent three months running, the landlord kicked you out of your apartment. You slept in your car until it broke down for good and the city put a boot on it and, later, towed it away. That was probably the exact moment you became homeless. Somewhere during the last 10 years living on the street, you became what the statisticians call “chronically homeless.”
Ten years means you know the routine. New faces come to you for advice. You tell them which shelters are the safest and which corners are the best to work. You tell them to get off IV drugs, if they’re using, if they can, because you’ve lost too many friends over the last few years to AIDS.
There are so many different kinds of people out on the street. White, black, hispanic, young, middled aged and elderly. Educated and not. Mentally disturbed and completely sane. Singles and married couples with families. And there are more out there than there ever have been. You’ve met lots of new families who lost jobs and homes with the economy as bad as it is.
So it’s another day on another corner, with another winter on the way. Maybe, you think, it’s time to take another shot at getting off of the street for good. Just because you’re homeless now, that doesn’t mean you should be homeless forever. But what can you do? Baptist Family is happy to announce that people calling us for help due to homelessness now have access to a new Transitional Housing facility.
In faithful partnership with LaVale Church, Baptist Family has dedicated resources and manpower to serve up to two homeless families at a time in LaVale Church’s renovated former parsonage.
Our model of care projects that a family will participate in our transitional housing program for 18 months. During that time, families will receive counseling, encouragement and support as they pursue a plan to build their life skills and learn to use their God-given strengths and talents to create an economically stable life.
Transitional housing is a resource- and time-intensive program, but the ultimate goal is to transform a homeless family into a stable and independent one. The result is worth the significant investment.
Baptist Family has been blessed with many church partners that have funded this kind of work.
The ten BCM/D affiliated churches that have led by their most generous example are University, Long Green, Redland, Chestnut Ridge, Colonial, Lake Shore, CrossRoads Community, South Columbia, Bethel, and Towne.
If your church is interested in reaching out to the more than 10,000 homeless persons in Maryland and Delaware, Baptist Family is always looking for partners.
Contact Kate Macdonald at (800) 621-8834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.