Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I've been running around today trying to help a family with a 3 week old baby. We met them on Sunday for the first time at the motel church. The father is hispanic and I believe he's here legally. The mother is from South Carolina but they're both unemployed right now. Living at the motel (for at least another week) until they figure something out.

What I'm learning is that all the different non-profits and shelters in Orange County are completely useless. Most of them have a waiting list of at least two weeks or more. None of them have empty beds to offer. And all of them have different hoops to jump through. The Christian groups won't help you if you aren't married. (They're not). Some of them require you to be employed and demand some or all of your paycheck, others require you to be unemployed and ask you to quit your job to enter their program. (So they can help you find a job later?) It's madness.

So, after making a few phone calls to people I know and trust, it came down to this: They could either take their 3 week old baby girl into a homeless shelter (Salvation Army) and sleep apart on either end of a segregated facility, or the mom could take her baby and sleep at a women's shelter (because they don't take men) and the father could sleep on a park bench and hope he didn't get arrested for "public camping".

What really breaks my heart is knowing that organizations that I've championed for years cannot do a thing to actually help these people. The truth is, I'm learning, they never were capable of actually helping anyone beyond the 10 or 12 people they were currently helping, even though they were receiving millions of dollars a year from the Government to fight homelessness in Orange County. (Most of their funding finances are spent on paying their staff and keeping the lights on in their facilities).

I think when it really comes down to it the only real solution to helping people like this are you and me. The followers of Jesus have to step up and help. We have to invest our lives in their lives. We have to let them sleep on our couches, or lend them money to buy food, or share our resources with them, or put them up in a motel until they can get help, or they will never get off the streets.

The system is designed to keep people on the streets. The motels they stay at nickel and dime them for every little thing. You can't use the phone in your motel room because the management charges you more than it costs to walk across the street to use the pay phone bolted to the telephone pole.

You can't get a job because you don't have a computer to type out a resume, or the money it takes to pay Kinko's $4 an hour to use their computer and print from their printers. Even if you do have that money, you still need more for the bus pass to get to the Kinko's, and with your 3 week old baby under your arm and no diapers or food for her, not to mention no food for yourself either, it's going to be hard to justify that $7 for a resume at Kinkos when your baby is crying out in hunger.

If you don't have a car and you spend your last $5.00 to take a 3 and a half hour bus ride to get your social security card and find out that they won't see you until you run over to the courthouse to get something signed or stamped (another 30 minute bus ride), then you've wasted an entire day for nothing. This sort of thing happens all the time.

All we can do is help one person, or one family like this, at a time. The system is broken. The shelters are full. The rescue mission is understaffed and their waiting lists are so long that people will die of exposure before they get one of those beds.

Only those who claim to follow Jesus can ever hope to make a difference. How? By giving until it hurts and by serving those who can never pay us back. By sharing what we don't want to give up and by allowing the problems of the homeless and the poor to become our problems.

We'll have to love more than we think we can. We'll have to give more than we're expecting to. We'll have to do even greater things than these.



krspond said...

This is not a disagreement, this is serious questioning in sincere honesty. Giving money? Cool. Giving food? Cool. Giving clothes? I'm cool with that, too. Here's what has always scared/worried me. You mention letting a person stay with you. Wow, is that another level or what?! I've never been able to do that with a stranger. How can you get past putting yourself or your family in danger? It's scary, isn't it? Is there a point where we allow it and a point where we don't or what? What do you think, man?

Steve Ruppert said...

How can i help you help them?

Steve Ruppert said...

How can i help you help them?

Keith Giles said...

Ken: As I responded to you privately, I don't just open up my home to anyone I meet on the street. Over the years we've allowed people to stay at our house but usually people we were in relationship with, or people we felt very comfortable with.

There have been times that I didn't invite someone to stay with us because they turned out to be violent.

Steve: Right now please keep them in your prayers. I'm trying to help them navigate their next steps through a few different avenues.

The great news is that several others have stepped forward locally to offer assistance so we've started to build a nice little network of support for them already. Praise God!

I'll gladly add your name to the list, Steve. If we end up with some needs we can't meet I'll post something here.

Thanks for the offer and the concern.