Helping the homeless this winter

“Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than this.” Mark 12:31

This is my buddy Darrell.

15492404_618696227434_8033870148020166669_nHe has been homeless for years. I met him a few years ago and we struck up a friendship. I’ve come to learn that this is not where he thought his life would end up.  Today, as we shared a Wendy’s meal sitting on a bench outside of Bass Pro in East Ridge he talked of his childhood and growing up in the Highland Park area. He talked about his mom and dad and all the fun times they had together. He talked about how he made some bad decisions and lost touch with reality. We talked about how his mother died in his arms and what that did to him. He said “I just shut off. I shut off for so long I found myself with literally nothing” Darrell is a great guy, who loves to laugh. I think our friendship went to another level today as he invited me to his “home,” a patch of woods near a popular shopping center. It’s a ways back there, but you know when you are at “his place” by the plastic bags hanging in the trees. His “bed,” as he says, is a 6 foot long piece of plastic he puts his sleeping bag on… I tried to get him to go to a hotel for a couple nights because the temp is suppose to be in the 20’s, but he wouldn’t. So, got him a tent, portable propane heater and a big bag of Cheetos! As we were sitting there talking our guitar player from church Dakota and his girlfriend Bailea came walking up, they joined us in the woods to get the tent set up. As I was leaving he opened up the Cheetos and said “Wanna have my birthday meal with me today” His 50th birthday was Saturday. So we sat there on the ground and celebrated his 50th birthday together and took a birthday selfie… He said “Man I’m looking rough” ha ha!fullsizerender

It literally hurts my heart that I can’t do more for him and the hundreds of others who were scattered throughout those woods. Maybe you are like me and you are asking “How can I help?” Here are a few things that you can do that can help our neighbors.

You can help immediately by giving to our Blanket Drive at Rock Bridge Ringgold. The months of December, January and February we are collecting new and gently used blankets to give to those who need an extra layer of warmth this winter.  You can drop them off at the church any time by putting them in the specified container in between the front doors or at any one of our services (Thursday 6:30 Sunday 9:00, 10:30 or 11:59) 

As the temperatures keep getting colder, North GA and the TN Valley homelessness problem becomes a more strikingly apparent situation than at any other time of the year.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that you can do to help out our Homeless neighbors.  

1) Acknowledge them

It sounds like an obvious thing to do, but it can make a world of difference to somebody’s day. It’s been days, months, maybe even years since the last time one of them had a actual conversation with someone. Everytime they open their mouth we tend to think they are just going to ask for money that they will use to “buy booze or drugs”.

Darrell said “A smile and a hello can make a world of difference,”  “That can actually set someone up for the day, especially when they’ve had no one to talk to for a long time.”

2) Buy them something WARM. A coffee, meal, tent etc…

Stopping by Starbucks? Why not buy an extra hot drink, even if it’s just a small one? Not only will this keep a homeless person hydrated but it will give them a chance to warm their hands up.

A tent or sleeping bag might actually save their life!

These are only $30 at BassPro http://www.basspro.com/Bass-Pro-Shops-Eclipse-Hiker/Biker-1Person-Tent/product/9992256648/

3) Donate.

Find a charity, church or individual that is legit and donate! Money, Blankets, Gloves, Coats etc..

4) Serve.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

Find an opportunity to serve them.

4) Buy them a gift. 

Buy them a good book, or pre loaded old ipod you got laying around that you never use.

We don’t think about it, but homeless people do like to read to pass the time, it gives them something to take their mind away for a bit.

5) Help them keep warm

When it’s in the 30’s and below, keeping warm at night is impossible if you’re living without shelter.

Again…offering a homeless person a thick sleeping bag, tent or blanket might save their life!!!

*Note: Don’t donate summer sleeping bags. Get a thick winter cold weather rated sleeping bag* 

Winter sleeping bags are thicker and they’re waterproof so they’re more useful at this time of the year.

Other warm clothes can also be donated, like gloves, hats and thermal undergarment. etc.

Let me beg you here. PLEASE DO NOT give a homeless person a gospel track by itself. That is shameful and not christ like at all! I’m all for you giving them a track if that’s what you want, but that track had better be with a tent, coat, meal(s). 

Darrell is a stronger christian than most of the people that would hand him a track and think they are doing a good thing because he is “that way” 

6) Do the Backpack Challenge

Fill up a old backpack with anything that might be useful really – blankets, thermals, snacks or a paperback…

If you see a homeless person I don’t advise giving them money directly, because they may have addiction issues or other problems. If they are really in need they will NEVER turn away a warm meal, blanket, etc…

We can’t solve the homeless problem overnight. We can’t help every homeless person but we CAN help one at a time. 

Be the good and see the need around you! It will shock you how much you can do right here in our community for people who need it the most!

If you would like to donate anything that could help keep my friends warm please email me at JC@rockbridge.cc or text/call me at 423-280-9101

Thanks and God bless

JC

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