Today was another learning type of day as we began to become acclimated with the environment that is created among the homeless shelters along the Route 1 corridor. We started our day by visiting with the people who run what is known as New Hope Housing. New Hope Housing is an organization that helps homeless people get back on their feet. The director of the organization echoed complaints many times about the inefficiency of measuring effectiveness of success, because it there are so many problems among homeless people that while you may provide them with housing or a way to get housing they can afford there may be other factors that could lead them back out there. New Hope Housing brings people in and helps them on the road to recovery. They have job placement areas, resume building times, detox clinics, and shelters, houses, and apartments for short term living. They work in conjunction with churches in the area to provide for the shelter.
I stayed very attentive to this part to see how informed the community was informed about what is known as this hidden culture that is present in this Route 1 corridor of Fairfax county. It is weird to think of how hidden the culture actually is. When they talked about finding homeless people they talked about how the homeless people would pitch tents in the woods and find hidden places to stay. It was even apparent when we went to one of the shelters to visit it was near the visitors entrance for Fort Belvoir. I have been to Fort Belvoir a couple of times and had never seen this particular building, and even if I had I would not have thought it to be a homeless shelter. Being able to these people really opens this culture up to me. It shocked me in a way because I had no clue how close I really was being at church to one of the main shelters for New Hope Housing.
We took a tour of some of the facilities that are owned by New Hope Housing and got a real chance to see where exactly the poverty is located. We passed many trailer parks and rundown homes, and were lead in to temporary housing apartments and learned of turnover between families. We learned that it is not more time spent in temporary housing, but the quicker that they can get them in and helped and out the less attached they become to the housing and the circumstance. This really sparked me cause as a teenager it was all just about finding any housing for homeless people. Whether it was a shelter or some sort of “temporary” housing. However, contemplating on this makes me think of complacency among people in these facilities and how shuffling them through with intentionality can help them work their way to getting back on their feet.
We had a lot of free time this afternoon and evening, but we ended our day with having an ice cream social with the members of the Kennedy Shelter (the shelter I mentioned earlier). We got to meet many members of the shelter community. I met a few people there who had not been there that long, but you could tell that they had a need for a place to stay and just help in general. One guy had worked in engineering and had just fallen on some hard times and is having to live in a homeless shelter. Our group actually met him at Rising Hope Church yesterday. It is nice to see connections between Rising Hope Church and New Hope Housing.
As I reflect on all that I learned today I reflect on complacency of homeless people to be homeless. We learned that often times homeless people won’t seek help from shelters because they feel happy where they are. With these people it makes me think that the problem of homelessness will never be solved. Therefore, places like Rising Hope are important it may not be important to get them into housing. Instead the goal is to reach them spiritually and help them with their relationship with God. I talked to one young man who was in the shelter and invited him to church. He told he wasn’t much for what he called “that churchy stuff”, so i just invited him to lunch at church. I know it is the first invitation that can hopefully lead to being able to sit in on prayer services.
These two weeks I want to form relationships that will hopefully lead to people being able to attend Rising Hope and gaining something from Pastor Keary. I feel reaching them spiritually will give them something to latch onto. It will give them a community to be able to call their own. It may not be about housing for them, but I want there to be a community where they can come and experience God. I can already tell that Rising Hope is a place for that kind of community.
Tomorrow we finally dive in and begin working with feeding and prayer services. Check in tomorrow night and see how it went.
P.S. – I have put the links for Rising Hope Mission Church and New Hope Rising for you to look at and get a better idea of their ministries and outreach. My links are on the right column.