Moving into a new home ranks among the more exciting events in life. It’s definitely a time to celebrate. Moving into a new home can also be stressful, especially if the husband and wife have lived apart from each other for a number of years with one living on the streets and the other in a home for women without homes.
There is a couple whose struggle is to get off, and stay off, the streets. They have failed on several occasions, leaving pieces of their hearts behind them. It has been an amazingly difficult journey for Jeff and Kelly and there is absolutely no way either would be where they are now had it not been for the number of second chances people like you have given them along the way.
Having finally qualified for some assistance they have secured a home of their own — an $800-a-month motel room with a tiny kitchenette. While subsidized, Jeff and Kelly are responsible to provide monthly rent payments to an unforgiving landlord, and accept the responsibility to pay for everyday necessities like food and toilet paper. Nothing is easy during this transition and maybe they won’t make it. But both agree that there is absolutely no way they would have made it this far without Jesus Christ and you.
We are recognizing that many of you may not know the part you played in this couple’s life, so we share the following snapshot of Jeff and Kelly’s most recent journey to encourage you.
A constant presence downtown, Jeff slept in the doorways of public places for at least 6 years, always alone and quiet. He would say that people would look through him or beyond him, but never really at him. He was a part of the nothingness — and the nothingness became him.
His wife, Kelly, shared his corner of the world for some time. During the day, they sat on park benches, bus benches, and benches on the Civic Center’s Promenade. They rummaged through trash for trade-in cans. They panhandled. When they walked from one place to another, they always looked down, as if unable to handle the looks of others.
They lived outside because they didn’t qualify for assistance; they were not insane or drunks or addicts.
Living on the streets took its toll on Kelly. She became distressed, resigned and afraid. Plagued by extreme previous events in her life, she went deeper and deeper into living a depressed life. That is when Jeff found her a temporary home of hospitality, where she could rest, appreciate the kindness of strangers, and be left alone. The Isaiah House was her saving grace. Resources were made available. Kelly was treated for depression and has since been on medication. She will never be better but she did grow stronger. Kelly doesn’t smile often, but she did begin to trust, enough to take advantage of the second chances the volunteers offered. The people of the Isaiah House saved her life. Their consistent kindness prevented her from taking her life, which she felt was worthless.
Jeff also received a number of second chances from you. To begin, he was diagnosed and treated for his mental disorder, schizophrenia. When challenged to find work, he decided he wanted to counsel young people. So while still on the streets and thanks to your contributions and a laptop computer, he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree. He graduated. We know. We were there to watch him respond when his name was called, stepping up the stairs and walking the distance to center stage, where a dignified man congratulated him, shook his hand, and gave him his especially hard-earned diploma.
Though not a guarantee of a job yet, they are, for now, thanks to you, enjoying a respite in their motel room furnished by gifts and donated items. Will they be able to keep their payments and stay off the streets? I’m not sure anyone can answer that. But for now, climbing into a real bed together between clean sheets and only steps away from their own toilet and shower is a little like being in heaven for Jeff and Kelly. But then again … maybe it’s where they belong, because maybe they are angels after all.
The next time you see someone in need, instead of looking through her or beyond him, stop long enough to think of Jeff and Kelly, and acknowledge that they are visible and not a part of the nothingness. Seek the Lord’s counsel if you are to give something of yourself. If it is a smile or a million dollars, give it freely and without looking away. You may be entertaining angels.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:1-3)