Strengthening Families. Building Communities. Reducing Poverty.

Baby Steps: Reaching Those Who Seem Hopeless

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I knew right away she was homeless. All the usual signs were there. She had on layers of tattered clothing. She was surrounded by bags of items that she held close. The expression on her face was that of anger. She snapped at the fellow food pantry visitors that moved in on her space in the makeshift waiting room. She carefully positioned herself in the corner of the room away from others. She almost curled herself up in a ball in the chair while everything about her presence screamed self-protection. When she told volunteers that she wasn’t going to fill out any form to get food, I knew God had sent her to us for a reason. 

I carefully moved into the situation by intentionally respecting her space boundaries. Her name was Sophia and she had been homeless for six years. She had an address but it was a homeless address and people respected that the room in the abandoned building was hers. No one messed with her there. She managed to maintain an “off the books” job at a local store. Sofia explained, “They know my mind is different and they don’t care because they know I’m reliable. They know I’m an independent-type person and don’t mess with me and let me do my job.” Her job included preparing the recycling by tearing up and securing boxes for recycling. “Sometimes they give me things to sort.”

Then the unthinkable happened ---the store went out of business and Sophia was suddenly faced with unemployment. Just as unemployment would impact most of us – it put Sophia’s life into a tailspin. She explained that sometimes she goes back to the store just to see if the store re-opened.

I spoke to Sophia about community resources. I spoke to her about local shelter programs and transitional living. I spoke to her about possible avenues for employment. I talked to her about how Catholic Charities could help with the hope that maybe we would be the ones who would eventually connect her to the world again. Through Sophia’s refusals I managed to get her to agree to take my business card while I mentally reminded myself to recognize success in baby steps. Sophia carefully wrapped by card in a used tissue and put it in her pocket.

Baby steps. Yes, I believe Jesus did send Sophia to us. I needed to be reminded that anger hides hurt. I needed to be reminded to pray for the invisible homeless each time that I drive by abandoned buildings. I needed to be reminded that I can’t fix every situation. I needed to be reminded how similar Sophia and I are – the only difference between us is the comforts that I take for granted.

 

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By Diane Bullard,
Piedmont Triad Office Director

Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte © 2014