Homelessness and hunger in communities across America is a problem most people are aware exists but few actually experience it firsthand. The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) estimates that 1.56 million people spent at least one night in a homeless shelter in 2009. Poor living conditions and limited access to health care can have a great impact on a person’s health. Being homeless is associated with health problems such as HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Homeless individuals also experience disproportionately high rates of various other communicable infections and chronic diseases, suffer poorer mental health than average, are more likely to abuse substances, and are often the victims of violence.
The CDC went on to say that a number of families affected by homelessness and those at risk of having inadequate or unstable housing are unfortunately growing. With the increase in foreclosures and other economic challenges, we must find ways to respond to the health needs of all populations. The health challenge presented by homelessness points to the need to provide health services in ways that fit the community, the city, the family and the individual, whatever the context.
In this season of thanksgiving, my question is are we as moved as we should be by the rampant starvation and homelessness that is occurring not only in our local communities but throughout the world? Matthew 14 records a time when Jesus was moved with compassion. Jesus had taken a boat to the vicinity of Bethsaida. The crowds heard that Jesus was nearby and they began to follow Him on foot. Jesus saw the large crowd and “…had compassion on them…” As evening approached, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away so they can find something to eat. Jesus told the disciples they should feed them. But the disciples answered: “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish” (v. 17). Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and fed the multitude. This miracle of Jesus resonate the profound need for compassion of His followers today. As a church we should be feeding the hungry, whether that hunger is a hunger for food, the Word of God, empowerment, healthcare, etc.
National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week brings awareness to the plight of others in our community. Being homeless and hungry can be a lonely and difficult time. Through ingenuity, commitment, awareness, and compassion, together we must address this public health challenge. Jesus said:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
– Matthew 25:35-40
This Thanksgiving season, ask yourself, what you have done in the face of human hunger and homelessness.
The writer does not assume responsibility in any way for readers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.