I hope you take the time to read and respond appropriately below to engage civil dialog about homelessness.
Please keep Celiz and the team she is with in prayer during this experience.
I will be publishing her thoughts following the experience.
For the next four days, my housemates and I will experience some of the realization of homelessness as we live on the streets.
Even after this is over, we cannot pretend that we will know what it is like to be homeless. We can only try to understand so that we can better serve our neighbors.
It started out with a simple enough question, one that was general and open-ended, directed at a group rather than an individual: “How do you feel about the Urban Plunge?”
How did I feel about this event that promised difficulty and discomfort?
How did I feel about a week that I had dreaded since the beginning of this program?
How did I feel about being on the streets and receiving services reserved for those in serious need?
Even though I’ve heard about the Urban Plunge since I started Serve Seattle, I still lack the proper words to explain it. Albert Einstein’s words begin to:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
If this is true, and I believe it is to a great extent, I don’t understand the Urban Plunge well enough. But from what I do understand, my housemates and I will experience some of the realities of homelessness by being out on the streets for four days. We will be in groups of three and will have to rely solely on the services and resources available to those on the streets. We will not be allowed home. We will not be allowed to take anything with us. We will go out with little more than the clothes on our back, nervous about the experience to come but expectant to be changed by it.
As I answered the question as mentioned above in a Starbucks with my small group from Serve Seattle, fears and frustrations I didn’t know I had were revealed as tears streamed down my cheeks.
I am frustrated that I can metaphorically put on someone’s clothes, live their life for a few days, and take it all off when I’m done. I am frustrated that I can receive services I don’t need. I am frustrated that I will experience some degree of homelessness with the hope and firm knowledge that it will be over in a few short days. I am frustrated, pained, and heartbroken that that is not the reality of the people who are currently living on the streets. And after nodding in agreement, my dear friend Erika simply stated, “You’re right… because a reality of homelessness is hopelessness.”
I came to understand that part of this experience feels deeply insulting to me. Our experience on the streets will be over on Thursday and with it comes the promise of food, a warm bed, safety, security, and our beloved community among many other tangible comforts often taken for granted. But the homeless who we will see, meet, or interact with over the next few days, do not have the privilege of knowing when their life on the streets will be over.
I cannot pretend to know what that is like.
I can only seek to understand better.
And because I don’t understand homelessness well enough, I want to commit myself to this experience. The reality is that I will be dirty and hungry. I will be most likely be ignored and, at some point, feel less-than-human. I will struggle with my social status and the reality of my privilege in this world and my city. And I will probably be frustrated, irritated, and grieved, perhaps to the point of tears, at numerous points during the next few days.
Even though the reality is that I will be looking forward to a shower come Thursday, I am looking forward to the reality that God will move, and I will be changed so much more. I am expectant for Him to fill our time with joy and laughter. I am so eager for Him to show up and be present while others pass me by.
So here I am, God. I bring you my frustrations believing that you will take them from my open hands and replace them something greater. I don’t know the hopelessness of life on the streets, but I know your Son and He is hope personified.