Blind, Deaf, Hungry

A few weeks ago, we received the preliminary result on the LA County Homeless Count--and it was devastating.  Our corner of the county increased by 50% over the last year.  While some of that increase can be attributed to more thorough counting, we can't deny that we are seeing more and more homeless people in our cities.  

The heartbreaking thing is that it's not just statistics--it's real people who have names and stories.  Some of them have families who are worried sick over them, but their untreated mental illness keeps them roaming the street.  Others never really had family: either their parents had their own addictions and illnesses that prevented them from caring, or they were abandoned to a broken foster system years ago.

Yesterday it seemed like everyone who walked in our door was in crisis.  It made the results of our homeless count feel unbearable.

Lenny*, a homeless neighbor I've known since I first starting working with KCB 10+ years ago, stumbled in.  "Chrissy, I can't see!  I'm going blind.  I haven't been able to see for months.  I can't do this anymore."  He was desperate, covered in urine, and scared.  I'd never seen him this frail before.  We connected him with an appointment with a doctor the next day, but it felt like we put a small bandaid on a gaping wound.  

An hour later, Yolanda* walked in.  She's humiliated by her homelessness and hides it from her family because she feels their own health and financial issues are too great to also handle her crisis.  She's working as much as she can, but does not make enough to afford even the cheapest trailer or studio in this area.  She confesses that she's had a fever for a few days and hasn't eaten.  "I'm so embarrassed to ask this--but do you have any food?  I am so hungry."  Just minutes before she walked in, a local Pastor had dropped off hot lunches that were left over from a local school.  We typically do not accept food donations at our office, but I think God knew that Yolanda would be walking in needing exactly that.

An hour after Yolanda left, Tom* walked in.  Tom is mostly deaf but his only hearing aid was damaged by sleeping out in the elements.  "I missed my appointment!!!  The judge said I'd go to jail if I missed my appointment!  And I broke my hearing aid.  I can't do this anymore!" He was frantic and shouting.  The volume of his voice was high both from his lack of hearing and his anxiety.  We tried to calm him down and get to the bottom of what appointment he was referring to, but he couldn't calm down.  "I hate having to depend on other people," he said as tears rolled down his face.

My heart broke yesterday.  

The Bible records Jesus healing the blind and the deaf--and I've never wanted so badly to see God do just that.  But often we do not see healing as quickly as we would like, and we're left feeling the heaviness of our broken world.

In the meantime, we grapple with Jesus' words:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. 

*Names changed