He called late in the day to ask for help with food and a shower. We explained that we had provided showers and a meal earlier in the day and we could refer him to a place where he could find some dinner. He was feeling hopeless and frustrated and told our staff member that this day had been particularly discouraging and he didn’t know how much longer he could carry on. He talked of committing suicide and then abruptly hung up the phone.
Thankfully, he gave us his contact information early on in the conversation. Our homeless navigator, Jim Brown, got on the phone immediately and listened to him as he talked about how hard things had been the past few years. Jim is a great listener and often that is the best kind of help we can give people. To empathize. To sit with them in their pain and see it…see them.
Jim did his magic which looks a lot like giving people hope. He set the caller up with an outreach team that could provide the man with some mental health services. Jim told him that he would come to visit him in the morning and that was all our homeless friend needed to hear. He thanked Jim and told him that he had made him feel better.
As we seek to end despair for the people we serve by providing for basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, we can never over look the most basic need we all have. That is, to be seen. To be heard. Our homeless friends are not problems that need to be fixed. They are people who need us to be present with them. To go the extra mile.