When I first said yes to going to the streets, the idea of being out there more than one day to volunteer, let alone spending the coming years out there, never crossed my mind.
A year and a half into my work on the streets, I found out I was pregnant with our first child, and a lot went through my mind… how was I going to do this work I hadn’t imagined doing in the first place and be a mom?
It didn’t help that I received endless questions piled on from people (who I’m sure meant well…).
You can’t go to the streets now that you’re pregnant.
You have a child to think about now, not just yourself.
I was already in a tenuous place, carrying my first baby, at 20 weeks pregnant and with complications. It was hard enough to endure each day, and the bright light in my days was my time with my friends on the streets.
I knew that I would not give that up, but it was also hard having people doubt or question my goodness as a mother.
Over the years, I have fundamentally come to believe that the primary narrative keeping families, and especially children, from our brother and sisters experiencing homelessness is that they are “unsafe.”
We hear or read stories about someone who is experiencing homelessness attacking a person, or we are verbally accosted entering a store, and these stories and these experiences become our default narrative about all people experiencing homelessness.
And while it’s normal to be afraid of that which we don’t understand or know, what we want to witness to you this Mother’s Day is that our brothers and sisters on the streets are as diverse as all communities are.
We invite you to see differently, to imagine that the people you encounter who are unhoused have a story not too unlike yours. They have people who love them and whom they love; they have worked jobs; and, they have existed within the bounds of typical society, most of them, for most of their lives.
This is a point in time, a moment in their story, and to be frank, normally a quite disorienting and crappy one.
What they need—deserve—from us is not disdain or avoidance, but rather compassion. Compassion in action through the willingness to make eye contact, give a head nod, say a hello, share a name, and ask a name. Even to sit down in silence or to listen.
In short, we are invited to love.
This year, we wanted to create a space for families to say “yes” to loving and coming alongside those experiencing homelessness, so we have created a monthly lunch where we all—families, adults, and kids alike—sit down and eat a meal together at a beautiful table. It’s become a space where we get to know one another as we laugh, cry, share stories, and have a lot of fun.
These meals have allowed families, both by birth and those forged, both housed and unhoused, to come together in the simplest way—the way Jesus so gently and intentionally modeled for us as he also sat around a table with people society had rejected. And I’d love for you to join us in this space too.