I’ve worked at New York City Relief, a Hope for New York affiliate that serves men and women living on the streets, for seven years now. In that time, I have talked with countless individuals struggling with homelessness, addiction, mental health issues, and every kind of physical and emotional trauma you could imagine.
But I have also been astonished by the movement of God in the lives of my neighbors who are homeless. I have learned from them and their experiences, and I have come to know and love God more fully as a result of knowing and walking alongside of those who many of us would consider “the least of these.”
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are five things I’ve learned over the last seven years about how to best love my neighbors experiencing homelessness:
1. Sometimes all you can say is “I’m sorry.”
When someone is detailing the horrors, challenges, and circumstances that have led them to a place of homelessness, sometimes there really isn’t much to say other than, “I’m sorry.”
Most homeless folks are dealing with trauma that the rest of us could hardly imagine, let alone empathize with. Yet, my experience tells me that if we have the courage to follow God into a space that we don’t understand or feel equipped to handle, there will always be others who meet us there to make up the difference.