One of my favorite hymns in the church begins, “Oh, how well do I remember how I doubted day by day.”
The hymn is focused on the dramatic change in one’s life brought about by the working of the Spirit of God in an individual to transform them from what they were to what they could become.
I think of that perspective, looking back, as I think that on Sept. 30 of last year, a group of people came together in the chambers of the Richmond City Commission at City Hall to express our common concerns for the homeless in Richmond.
This was not to be just a community gathering or one of those meetings held so that it could be said that a meeting was held. This was serious business. The number of persons present and the energy in the room proved that.
Appropriate information was given. National and state perspectives of homelessness were presented. Relevant remarks were made. Agencies and churches and individuals offered help in specific ways.
We were on our way to addressing in an organized fashion what many saw as a growing problem, but what we chose to call our homelessness “issue”.
Several persons have asked over the past months what the meeting produced in the way of something helpful. Since that evening, there has been action on the part of government, churches, agencies and concerned individuals. In the meeting, we discovered that there were many efforts and projects already underway. The problem was that some of the existing helps were not commonly known to the general community.
The first success of the meeting was making known what was already being done to help the homeless in our community.
We were told of shelters for individuals and families. We were enlightened about the attitudes of some homeless persons toward the use of shelters. We were told of the needs of the homeless from the perspective of the homeless themselves. Information gathered helped the City Hall staff to prepare a summary of those present and the concerns they represented. That information gave us a great start to an organized approach to addressing our situation and providing some help for those in need.
The City of Richmond made available an unused office that was conveniently located downtown to serve as a central place for the Room in the Inn Ministry to receive persons who needed overnight help. Basic services in addition to lodging were provided. This included assistance in finding jobs for those who were seriously seeking.
The ministry operated during the winter months to help with lodging. As the weather became warmer, the ministry continued by providing daily meals at one of the local churches, with other churches and groups assisting. Since that time, others have begun to provide meals in other locations at different times of the day.
One of these is currently feeding literally hundreds weekly.
It is my hope that in the near future, we will be able to pool our efforts even more to provide a centralized access to services in this community. What we see now is not the direct result of government, but rather it is the sincere concern of fellow citizens demonstrated in a spirit of love.
Although the issue of homelessness is far from being resolved, there are some things that can be done now. And we can help as many persons as we can. It would be a crime for us to see such great need and do nothing. It is further my hope that we can come together once again to assess our progress and to determine where to go from here.
I am convinced that our concerted effort will not be in vain.
We can get through this, but we must do it together!
And Lisa says, “Richmond rocks!”