Written by: Bobby Kinkela, Voice of the Poor Representative for the Mideast Region
January is homeless awareness month. Homelessness in Michigan is difficult this time of year in the cold and the snow. There are friends in need who are living out of their cars. The trick here, I’ve heard, is figuring out how much gas money it will take to keep the phone charged and the heater on enough so you can’t see your breath. Yet most cars and vans are not meant for living and the car batteries often fry out. Our Conference helped a friend experiencing homelessness purchase a deep cycle car battery to replace her broken car battery. This allowed her to run her household items without quickly burning out her battery. Yet in the state of Michigan, the department of health and human services considers this woman “housed” because she has a van which is considered “shelter,” and so she is not entitled to additional homeless state money. She instead has to save up for move-in expenses.
There are some neighbors in need that take to outdoor camps in tents, even in the snow and cold. I wondered how it’s possible to live in the elements. One neighbor in need shows me how she keeps warm using a personal heater she made. The heater is a metal coffee cup filled with a mixture of hand sanitizer and alcohol lit with a flame. The flame is kept inside a metal boiling pan, so even if the mixture spills, her tent will not catch on fire.
The ingenuity of people and the desire to survive is a very human trait instilled in us by our Creator. Let us admire the ingenuity of people struggling to survive in a state of homelessness, while at the same time try to improve things so that they will not have to.
Written by: Fr. Wayne Biernat of St. Michael’s Parish in East Longmeadow, MA
When we look into the eyes of the poor, do we see the face of Jesus Christ? Do we feel and understand how truly lucky we are to encounter and experience the heart of Jesus Christ in that holy moment? Every time we embrace the gift and the grace of loving and serving the poor, we are given the blessing of encountering the divine. Being present and attentive to their needs is an invitation from God to truly love. Love changes and blesses the human heart. Love is what we all yearn for in our humanity. The poor are experiencing an absence of love in a profound and life changing manner. When our basic needs are not provided for, we can feel an emptiness within our human heart that is deafening. We are all blessed with the power and strength to bless that emptiness for one another. How will we answer that knock on the door of the heart from God today?