Homelessness does not happen overnight, and it will not be solved overnight. Taking a homeless person and putting him into an apartment will not solve his problems.
Look at Dean from our cover story. He was homeless and jobless before coming to the Mission, but those circumstances were actually symptoms of a much deeper problem. Dean had a good work ethic. He had been a member of the Coast Guard for four years and worked steadily both before and after, paying bills, managing daily responsibilities.
But underneath that functional exterior was a core of unaddressed pain that refused to be ignored any longer. It bubbled up into explosive rage.
Like most of the men and women who come through our doors, Dean bore the scars of childhood wounds.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
In the late 1990s, a joint study by the Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente looked into why risk factors for disease – smoking, drug use, promiscuity – were not randomly distributed throughout the U.S. population but rather tended to cluster; that is, a person with one risk factor tended to have others, as well.
The research revealed that “children exposed to traumatic events were more likely to develop mental and behavioral health problems like depression and addiction. They were also more likely to have physical illnesses like heart disease and diabetes” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation blog). They were more likely to engage in early sexual activity, more likely to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, and more likely to attempt suicide.
Without intervention, a wounded child grows into a crippled adult. Abuse, neglect and dysfunction, the study said, “can derail healthy brain development, putting young brains in permanent fight-or-flight mode.”
By and large, these are the people coming through our doors. People who need so much more than a roof over their heads.
They need the love of Jesus Christ. They need to be invited into a new family.
They need what you and I have to offer.
We can be safe people who truly listen, who care, who pray, who call them to new life. We can be people who help others heal and grow, speaking the life-giving words of repentance and forgiveness. We can let wounded men and women experience Jesus through us.
The Union Gospel Mission may be best known for providing food and shelter, but you know the truth: Our bread and butter is the love and power of the gospel.