When a disheveled man waving a cardboard sign approaches your car at an intersection, do you cringe? Most of us experience some discomfort in situations when we encounter “the homeless.” The generalizations we make about this community – they’re lazy, crazy, or addicted – exacerbate that discomfort. But learning more about the people who live without shelter in San Diego gives us more confidence in knowing how to interact.
Although the term “homeless” is often used as a noun, describing a certain type of person or category of people, the word is actually an adjective that describes a person’s experience. People may not have a home or shelter, but that does not define their whole person. The Bible teaches that all people are made in the image of God, worthy of dignity and respect. Someone living without shelter could be experiencing homelessness for a wide range of reasons – seeing them as individuals helps us hear their stories and see the image of God in them.
Take Chrystle Barajas. In 2009, she fled domestic abuse with her daughter, Karlyna. After sleeping on friends’ couches, she and her daughter eventually found themselves without a place to live. Eventually she found Solutions for Change, a Hope for San Diego affiliate that serves homeless families. “When I first arrived at Solutions I was scared, broken, and stressed, and emotionally drained,” remembers Chrystle. “But I was willing to make drastic changes.” Now, she’s a graduate of Solutions University’s 1,000 day program. She and Karyna live in their own apartment in a safe neighborhood. Chrystle has a job and for the first time in four years has health insurance.
Get to know people like Chrystle, who have experienced homelessness, by volunteering at Solutions for Change. Help with childcare while parents go to classes, prepare and serve a meal, or volunteer at the Solutions farm. You’ll never look at the “homeless” the same way again.