Living near Saratoga Springs, New York, I've seen homeless people wandering around Congress Park, huddling in the bus shelters, or in front of Wendy's, pushing overflowing carts with all their possessions wrapped in plastic to keep them dry.
When my best friend's daughter got a job at the library, she told me how the homeless would go to the library on rainy or cold days to sleep, hidden in the stacks of books. I remember thinking how sad that was, but never gave it more than a casual thought. I never thought much about what circumstances played out in these people's lives to make them homeless, what they did for food, how they would ever find a home again, or if they even had hope for a future.
But all that changes when I met Emily* in early 2011 at an author event our publishing company was hosting in Saratoga Springs. She came rushing in late and sat near the back. After the meeting, she came up to the front to talk with me. We ended up meeting a few weeks later to talk about writing and her dreams for publishing. And we ended up talking about everything else too.
Emily and I stayed in touch on and off over the year. Each time we connected, I heard a bit more of her story. Originally from the mid-West, Emily had been in the Navy, served overseas and met her husband. When he got stationed at West Milton, she came with him and accepted an honorable discharged. She went back to college and earned her master's degree. They were doing well when their daughter was born. They had the home in Clifton Park, the pool, the SUV, all the trappings. When their marriage ended, Emily started her own business. She was a successful and was able to maintain her lifestyle.
When we met, she told me that she had left her company four years before. After making it a successful company, she felt it was time to move on so she resigned. While she had savings and a 401(k), she hadn't realized the difficulty of finding another position.
By the time we had met, she had lost her home, moved into a small apartment, and had depleted her 401(k). She wanted to go back to her home state, but she was unable to leave the area due to the custody agreement. When I ran into her at a church service in January 2012, she told me that her situation had changed. Unable to pay her rent, she had been evicted. Her military friends who had taken her and her daughter in were being transferred to Virginia. She had no savings left:
The end of February, I felt I that I had to contact her. When Emily heard my voice, the confident woman I had come to know, broke down and cried. The current housing was falling apart and her ex had filed for primary custody of their daughter because of her housing situation. That Friday, Emily and her daughter moved in with my family. In April, she lost custody of her daughter. She sold all her remaining possessions and moved back to her family in June, broken.
While there is much more to Emily's story, what I learned is that homelessness isn't a class of people, the drunk or the druggie. In this economy, the face of homelessness has changed. Anyone can become homeless. In fact, I know a few more people who have become homeless in the last year. One is a single mom, who got injured and disability couldn't cover the mortgage payment. An older friend going through a divorce found herself with no home. A 22-year old friend of my daughter has been living in his car this summer:.
I can't possibly take all these people home. But I can make a difference. As I thought and prayed about the plight of these people, their shattered dreams, their tomorrows, I began to envision a place where they could heal, a home, where they could find rest, and resource to help them rebuild.
Based in Saratoga County, the Haven will be a Christian home for those who have found themselves homeless. With a focus on helping this new segment of the homeless population, my desire is to help these forgotten people in society get the resource they need to rebuild their lives.
With the support of some close friends, we are starting to make The Haven a reality. From corporate paperwork, to designing the program, finding the house, we have a big job ahead of us. But to those people whose lives we are going to impact, this is so worth the investment of our time, resources, and lives.
So, we are asking for your help through prayer and financial support. The finances to get the legal paperwork done is the first step. No gift to small, no prayer to short. If you want to be a part of changing the lives of just one of these people, please consider how you can help.
Matthew 25:37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "˜Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40And the King will answer and say to them, "˜Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'
- Pastor Jay
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