A LONG TRAIL WINDING...
Sometimes very long, hard roads lead to happy endings. So it is with "Barbara." Barbara has been homeless for many years. After aging out of Florida's foster care system, she developed a serious problem with drugs and alcohol. She ended up in jail for slapping a police officer, which is a felony. Then she found it difficult to get work. She worked odd jobs anywhere she could, but wound up homeless for many years. About 15 years ago Barbara got clean and sober and has remained so ever since. She has continued to pick up work anytime she can, and also occupies herself with volunteer work, some through agencies and missions, and some on her own. She has often guided an elderly or disabled homeless person through the process of applying for food stamps and Section 8 housing.
Barbara is a loner who camped by herself, in the same spot for several years. She always left her campsite before sunrise and returned after dark, in order to escape detection in this tough town where it is illegal for a homeless person to sleep in a public place (or anywhere since they have no private space). One night Barbara was on her way back to her campsite when she encountered some GPD officers, who thought she was there to steal from a nearby construction site. She was arrested for prowling and loitering. Then, as luck would have it, Barbara was featured on a local TV station as an example of how law enforcement is protecting the community. Around the same time, her two best friends died, one from illness and one from old age. She fell into a profound state of depression and made a serious suicide attempt. By the grace of God, a friend discovered her and this terrible event lead to Barbara being accepted into a program at Meridian.
One reason Barbara has been homeless for so long is that, for the past 15 years, she has not fit into a particular category. She was not drinking or taking drugs, she was not pregnant, she has no children, and she is not a veteran. Like so many single homeless women, there was nothing for her. When she became depressed and suicidal, there was finally a place for her to get help. With the help of Meridian, the Hope program, and a caring disability lawyer, Barbara is starting to thrive.
Next week - ta dum - Barbara is moving into an apartment!
We are seeing many new faces in the homeless community, on a weekly basis. Things are pretty tough out there. We are, thank God, having a fairly mild winter so far, and that's a break. The courage and resiliance of our homeles friends continues to amaze and inspire me. Last night I met "Cedric" outside St. Francis House. He said, "I don't know why I'm here, but God wasn't ready for me yet." He was serving in Baghdad in close proximity with 15 other men. A bomb fell and no one but Cedric survived. Cedric has huge luminous eyes and he smiles. At the same time, he looks stunned - like a deer in the headlights who has no where to go. He smells faintly of beer, but is not intoxicated. He is living moment-by-moment, thanking God for his life and ready for wherever it may take him.
He reminds me that courage,like God, is in the moment.
peace and blessings to you all,
The HOME VAN needs candles, white tube socks, creamy peanut butter, jelly, tents, tarps, personal hygiene products (hotel size), Vienna sausages and protein drinks, both regular and diabetic. To donate money to the Home Van, send a check, made out to St. Vincent de Paul, to 307 SE 6th Street, Gainesvillr, FL 32601, or donate through PayPal at our blog: http://homevan.blogspot.com/