When you are a food ministry people donate all sorts of food to your organization. Sometimes that means Forever Fed get miscellaneous cans of soups and smaller items that we really don’t use while preparing meals for 100+ people at a time. So we put them on a storage shelf and just keep them for a rainy day.
About once a month we get an “emergency call” about a family who needs food. Delivering boxes of food to individual families is not really what Forever Fed does. We also are very cautious not to provide services that other ministries and organizations are already providing. Before I’ll take food to a family I do research to determine what kind of assistance they are already receiving. Since Forever Fed serves food to neighborhoods experiencing high need we are often the first contact many have with a food resource.
I received a call yesterday about a family who had to move into their parent’s home because of a series of unfortunate events. Both families were doing just fine and getting by while living on their own. However, because of a job loss they now had eight people living in Grandpa’s house because the adult children and grandchildren had nowhere to go. This is becoming very common behavior in America.
The Grandfather’s neighbor was the one who contacted me and told me of their situation so I loaded up some of those canned goods that were “odds and ends” and took them to this family. When I found the address it was a nice and well maintained home with three vehicles that looked to be in pretty good condition as well. Someone was under a car working on an engine and a few kids were playing in the front yard. These folks did not look like they were in very high need.
I introduced myself to the Grandfather who was fairly embarrassed that his neighbor had called and asked for help. I explained who I was and why I was there and the joy on his face was obvious. Along with the food, I was then able to give him a business card to a Church that could help him direct him to some community resources for additional food, clothing, and employment. I explained to him that there were many folks out there in his situation and that he should not be ashamed to ask for help. The shame would be if they continued to spiral downward because they were too shy to ask for assistance. The ultimate shame would be if they all ended up on the streets because the group could not pay their bills.
This man, looked down at his feet for a few minutes, and then he looked up and smiled at me. He said, “Your right”. He asked a few more questions about available services and I told him what I knew and who he should contact.
These types of families are the new “poor” in America and they live right next door to every one of us. I know this because I’m delivering groceries to your neighbors. No neighborhood is immune to joblessness and hard times. This family had no idea of the resources that were available to them because they’d never been in this situation before. It took a concerned neighbor to make one phone call for a box of groceries and an outsider to tell them they had options. I was able to plant the seed of a thought that help was available and give a little encouragement. This family is much closer to homelessness than they know. I’ve conversed with people we serve who have nothing and I’ve learned they almost always follow a common path to homelessness. That path looks something like this.
- A jobless family moves in with family or friends who are already living paycheck to paycheck.
- The homeless family strains the employed or fixed income family.
- The added strain of the homeless family leads to everyone being late on utility bills, car payments, and house payments.
- When the un-employed family does not gain employment or assistance quickly the whole unit begins to spiral downward and rarely are the two families able to fully recover from the one family being jobless for a time.
So what can we do? Be a neighbor to those in need.
Chances are there’s someone living right next door to you that could use a helping hand. Help these pre-homeless families stabilize before they hit rock bottom. There are many resources available to your community that help those in need, find out where they are. Help these families see there is no shame in needing help and offer to go with them to seek assistance, encourage them along the way.
With proper encouragement, joblessness is only for a season. Without encouragement, joblessness becomes hopelessness and we all know where that leads.
Be a neighbor.
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Romans 15:1,2