A little over a month ago, I posted my first “Reflections of a homeless night shelter manager”. I don’t intend to go over what I wrote then but rather I would like to consider outstanding points given my 17th of 17 night shelter sessions has just finished (this morning) and emotions are still mixed and running high.
While it is tempting to pontificate on the homeless situation we are now seeing (and I have – in several of my previous “homeless” blogs), I have come to a view that for the most part the best we can do is do what is in our power to do, like showing basic compassion, which the CWNS scheme is all about. As one manager pointed out, it ought to be doing with Jesus parable of “Sheep and Goats” and showing practical mercy to them in need. As for building more houses, providing better support and addressing some the issues that lead to folk becoming homeless in the first place, maybe, unless we can make a difference, we have to leave it for others.
Besides having that end of term feeling, there is the somber realization that when the last CWNS runs (this coming Wednesday) that is it, for the shelters at least, until we start up again (likely but this is not a foregone conclusion) toward the end of November. While we have helped many in some way and have seen them get to a better place, and improve in the way they feel etc. as a result of being guests at and being looked after in the shelters, the harsh reality is that for some it will be back onto the streets, with an uncertain future, despite the help provided by charities like HARP.
I continue to be amazed by the commitment and compassion and all in it together spirit shown by a disparate group of volunteers and while some guests are not the sort you would necessarily want to entertain in your home, some are, and some, probably most, show amazing qualities that are not surpassed by the non homeless majority. Obviously, for confidentiality reasons, I can’t elaborate too much on the stories of the guests (we had 19 stay overnight at our last session, and if I were to think about it I could write a book), I am convinced many have harrowing tales they can truthfully tell and, while often showing amazing dignity, are still in a hard place.
But life goes on, and so must we. I wish my homeless friends well and will do what I can to help even though the shelters are no longer operating. What I have learned, none of us have a monopoly on compassion and many who have joined me in this enterprise are not Christian. But we all see we can make a difference, and while there is a long way still to go, a lot has been made these past 17 weeks.