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Life on the Street

Ingrid McIntyre

Deisaray asleep IMG_6710We met Deisaray in November. We were under the bridge, looking for people who needed coats, gloves, hats, socks—anything to keep warm on a cold night. We were also looking for Deisaray, a teenage girl who was new to the street. Kevin introduced us.

“Hi. How ya doin’?” We began with the niceties. We talked for a while, asked if she needed anything, and left our information; but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling inside me. Deisaray was so young and on her own, out in the cold all night and all day, every day. She had no job, no money, no place to shower, no food, no transportation. I wanted to know more of her story, but I knew that would take time—and trust.

Deisaray Kind IMG_6584I’ve known Deisaray for six months now. She moved into Hobson House, a community of people making the transition from the streets to permanent housing. Our relationship isn’t easy. Deisaray has had a rough life. She has no family, grew up in state custody, suffers because of physical and verbal abuses, and struggles to make good decisions. She also laughs a lot, finds beauty in things I miss, takes long walks, talks with people I don’t often make time for, and lets God surround her with the strength to get through each day. I’m thankful for her presence in my life.

The Facts*

  • More than a million teenagers in the United States experience one or more periods of homelessness every year, and 1.35 million children are homeless on any given night.
  • Although teens often leave abusive situations, life on the streets is no better. They are the victims of sexual predators and prostitution. They suffer from substance abuse and serious mental or physical health issues. Some die.
  • Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
  • 21% of homeless teens repeat a grade because of frequent absence from school. 41% attend two different schools in a year, and 28% attend three or more.
  • 35% of homeless children and youth live in shelters, 34% live doubled up with family or friends, and 23% live in motels or other locations.

*Stats from National Coalition for the Homeless 

What Can We Do?

There are many days when I think I can’t make a difference in the lives of these teens. On those days, this Franciscan Blessing gives me hope, strength, and inspiration. May it do the same for you.

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

 

DIG DEEPER

Deisaray and Ingrid IMG_6699Try these practical ideas for putting feet to your prayers:

  • Go to nationalhomeless.org to learn more about teens on the street and to find ways to serve the homeless in your area.
  • Put together backpacks for homeless teenagers. Include fun things and necessities: MP3 player, camping towel, hygiene products, socks, notepad, disposable camera, pens, grocery gift card, an encouraging note, nail clippers.
Ingrid McIntyre is the Executive Director of Open Table of Nashville, Inc.

—from devozine (November/December 2011). Copyright © 2011 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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