Today in the church office we had a visitor, though definitely not for the first time. It was a local woman who is simply famous in this town. Everyone sees her and knows her name. You can usually find her hanging out around the local Circle K gas station, near the 7-11, or just roaming the streets of town. She's been here for as long as most can remember and she's been homeless for just as long. She's no stranger to anyone in town, especially the local churches from whom she sometimes seeks help for dinner money or decent clothing. To my knowledge, she has no family other than those she meets in passing on the streets and those who try to help her on a regular basis. Due to her mental state, she's never kept Job. She has come to epitomize local poverty and she has endeared herself to this town, becoming part of its very fabric.
What she was looking for today struck me. She came in and was asking about some sort of house. Neither I nor our secretary knew what she was talking about but it soon became clear that she was looking for somewhere to stay. She said, "it's getting ready to rain out there and I 'aint got no place to stay." As we searched for the words to say that we didn't have anywhere for her to stay, she reminded us that she'd be staying in the alley and what she said next just about broke my heart. She said, "there're so many empty places in town, but nobody... wants to help." She was right. The economy has indeed left several open facilities in this town, ones which would serve as fine shelter from hash whether, but even if we wanted to help we feel restrained and incapable due to the "way it works." You just don't let homeless people sleep in a closed down restaurant. And if no one can even ask "why the hell not?" then perhaps we've truly lost our imagination to the system. So my heart cried out within my chest, "why the hell not!?" but I remained silent. We gave her some money for dinner for which she was very thankful. She understood... I guess... and after a good hug with our secretary and a friendly handshake and smile with me, she left our doors.
Pray tonight. Pray for everyone whose best shelter in no shelter at all. For tonight it's getting ready to rain.