Street Pilgrimage Pt 5: Cold City, Warm Hearts

As I panhandled, I had to keep brushing snow off of my sign so that people could read it. That caused my gloves to get wet which then started to freeze. By the 45-minute mark I was shaking with cold and my hands ached. The snow turned to sleet rain which got my jeans wet so I held my sign over my legs like a roof. I only made $2.00 and 50¢ in that hour. It was going to be a long day… Read the full post on Medium >>

Lauren Wittel
Street Pilgrimage Pt 4: Code Blue

That night I squeezed into a space narrower than a coffin, trying to get some desperately needed sleep. I was glad to escape the frigid temperatures outside, but felt uneasy with the strangeness of my surroundings. I hoped that no one would steal my boots while I slept. Each winter, about 700 homeless people in America die from hypothermia. About 35 people freeze to death each year in New York City where I serve. This is beyond tragic. Read the full post on Medium >>

Street Pilgrimage Pt 3: Rude Awakening

A toothless, one-eyed man from the streets of New York City offered me his last gift card. My own self-centeredness was assaulted by the reckless kindness of this stranger. Who was this guy and why would he do this? I had found the person that I had been hunting for on my 7-day spiritual pilgrimage on the streets, and he had an elaborate disguise. My night “sleeping” on the E Train was brutal. I awoke very cold at 5:30am. I knew immediately that I needed to put on more layers of clothes. I pulled my head out from underneath my blanket to see a packed train car of commuters staring at me. What a strange feeling! I felt awkward and exposed. I had never been deprived of privacy like this before and it was very disconcerting. Read the full post on Medium >>>

Street Pilgrimage Pt 2: Night Train

It was one of the worst nights of “sleep” of my life. Bright lights glared. Intercom systems blasted messages announcing the next stop. Strangers moved around me constantly. Worst of all, every few minutes the subway train stopped and started all night, jarring me out of any hope for a deep sleep. This is how I ended up trying to find rest on a restless E-Train. A week before I went to live on the streets of New York City during my spiritual pilgrimage, I had come across a friend of mine named June in Penn Station. It was the month of March which was still bitter cold. Winter was holding on as long as it could. Read the full post on Medium >>>

30 Years Homeless.

30 years homeless.

“I’m starting to lose hope.”

His carts (all his belongings) were stolen. Now his glasses. He can barely see, his hearing is just as bad.

He’s lost at least 50lbs - I didn’t even recognize him when he walked up.

But, what’s the point?

Obviously he IS hopeless, if he hasn’t fixed himself in 30 years, then there’s no point in us wasting time resources, right??

Now, that all would be completely true if my or our goal at @nyc_relief was to fix him - but thankfully(!!!!) our goal is not to fix him, but to show up and love him right where he is. Read the full post >>>

Street Pilgrimage Pt 1: Imagine if you were homeless.

There I found myself, 47-years-old, sitting on a sidewalk begging for change in New York City. The air was cold and the longer I sat there, the more the chill cut to the bone. I had no idea where my next meal would come from. The sea of humanity swept around me as I blended into the background with my cardboard sign. No longer human, I was part of the familiar landscape of this renowned city. They say that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. I found myself amongst those who blended into the background, like part of the concrete, because they definitely weren’t making it and there was no light at the end of the tunnel either. How did I find myself here? Read the full post on Medium >>>

The Poor You Will Always Have With You

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Christians justify doing nothing for the poor and the homeless by quoting the words of Jesus found in Mark 14:7: “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”

Now, besides the obvious irony of using the words of the same man who told the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the same man who highlighted the significance of the widow’s generosity, and the same man who constantly warned of the dangers of greed, in order to excuse not lifting a finger to help the poor, there is also another fundamental problem. Read the full post >>>