I Run These Streets!

“I run these streets…” Did I actually say that out of my mouth? Missy looked at me, she couldn’t believe what I was saying. But hey, at the time Tommy had just been beaten to a pulp and I wanted names. The guys I was talking to didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. I had to hit hard with my words in order to get their attention as well as their respect.

For over 4 years we have worked extremely close to the men and women on the streets. It is a job I feel really grateful to have.

I was a true “greenhorn” in every sense of the word when I first met the homeless people on the 14th Street Bridge. I suppose it would be fair to say that they were equally as green when it came to dealing with a crazy “church lady”. As with all things it has balanced out over the years and I consider myself an expert when it comes to homelessness. I have been taught by societies best.

This week I spent a few days with Missy under the 13th Street Bridge. The weather has been HOT and sitting out in direct sun light can be suicidal to an alcoholic. Therefore the covering the 13th Street Bridge provides has drawn many into its shadowy canopy.

New socks, sleeping bags and a few item of clothes were passed out to everyone that had a need for the items. Many smiles and several hugs and kiss’ covered us as their gratitude was expressed.

They love us…we love them. It’s just that simple. I care if they sleep on something other than dirt. I care that one of the girls is protected by someone; from a boyfriend that’s looking to kill her. Her body has many bruises and burns from his latest violent attack. The police are hunting for him. Cat and mouse game. Let’s see who finds who first. We pray the police win.

A recently released rapist sits quietly over to the side watching the homeless women and Missy and I as well. The rapist blows kiss’ at my new abused friend along with a slight wink. I slowly move around to the men I know well and whisper my warning of who the guy in the red shirt is and to keep an eye on all the woman.

One woman sitting in the group had already been attacked by the guy in the red shirt. She finds her bravery to continue to sit under the bridge (in the safety of the group) in the cans of beer she continues to drink and actually with every swallow she opens herself up to be vulnerable to another attack. I warn…she never heeds to the warning and continues to drink whatever is placed in her hand.

Donnie sits on the ground in urine stained wet pants and cries. Why are you crying Donnie? I ask. He doesn’t really know the answer why but from his beautiful blue eyes water continues to fall. Tears… His speech is slurred beyond being able to decipher and I roll up his coat and put it under his head as I help him lay down on his side to maybe pass out for a while so he won’t cry anymore.

Men, woman continue their conversations as I take care of Donnie. To them this is just a repetitive commercial break they no longer pay attention to any longer. They hear the sounds and understand the commercial now without ever looking in our direction.

I kicked a few slices of lunch meat into the river below because of the ants converging on it. I was afraid they may get on Donnie if he passes out for a few hours. I care.

I run these streets! Yes it is true. There is world out there and people in that world called HOMELESS! I don’t live there. The soles of my shoes aren’t worn down from walking the cement walks that run along city streets. I don’t carry a back pack or sip from a mouthwash bottle but they are my streets.

The men and some women know they have someone to answer to if they allow themselves to get too out of control. Who beat up Tommy? It took a few weeks but I finally got the names. The men worked the streets and dug it out for me. The information I have actually does me no good however on the other hand it enhances what I do tremendously. The more I know the safer I can keep myself and those who work with me.

I only have to watch a mans walk and I know who it is three city blocks away. You see my hearts desire is to bring awareness to people like yourselves of what really happens on the city streets of America. Who are the homeless? Are they bad people? Do they all drink and do drugs? Will they hurt me, rape me, try to kill me?

I have been to some camps alone. I have sat down with the men and talked, laughed and watched them cry. Other camps I would take another person with me. Male or female, just as long as I wasn’t by myself. And then there are other camps I would never go in without 1-2 men with me. Respect! I demand respect in a sweet way. I have to or nobody would listen to me.

As a Praise and Worship leader in our church I have come to understand that pride is one issue constantly being battled in my band. Not everyone can sing or play an instrument. It’s kind of like “I can play drums and you can’t…look at me.” So I usually have had to gently smash that ugly pride that gloriously wants to rise to the top in my members.

Well it’s very much like that  working along side of the homeless. Not everyone can do it or wants to do it. I want to and I can therefore it is what I love to do. Never will I allow myself or others that work with me to exploit them in a showy way in order to say “Look at what I do?” These people are human beings and they very much have feelings.

There are things I know about the cement world outside that I never would put into print. It could embarrass the men. I choose words as wisely as I possible can to explain as much as I can, if you understand my meaning. Yet I always balance the fact that they live where they live. I live where I live and I must always remember that line is in the sand. My life is as personal and private as it can be and I must never let them into it.

They share their lives with me however I am very careful who I share that information with. Trust destroyed on the streets is almost impossible to get back. I listen way more than I talk. Comparable stories are done this way.

Please consider becoming a partner of  World Vision Ministries. We operate solely on tax-deductible donations. No we aren’t just a homeless ministry. We work in Central America and have a church just like everyone else attends on service days however…the homeless ministry is what I do best and I do believe people enjoy hearing about life under the bridges they travel across every day they go to work.

In our area think about me when you cross from Alabama into Georgia…I’m down under there.

World Vision Ministries

PO Box 2744

Phenix City, Al. 36867     (706) 718-1188 Office, ask for Missy

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