I lived in Hinesville for more than a year before I knew there were any homeless people in the community.
I grew up in a tiny town where homelessness was a big-city problem that you saw in movies. The first time I saw a man holding a “will work for food” sign on the side of the road, I was a teenager. I was prepared to go get that man some McDonald’s and bring it back to him before my parents reminded me we were on our way to a doctor’s appointment and already running late. Still, it ate at me that this man was so in need and I had so much.
I’ve since learned that the homeless don’t always stand at the curb with cardboard signs. Sure, some do, but many more are couch surfing with friends and family or even acquaintances. And the hungry don’t always hold up signs that scream desperation. Some just find themselves skipping a few days of meals so their kids can eat because the bank account has gone dry and no one wants to hire them.
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” seems fitting. We only care about what’s right in front of us, and even then we sometimes only care begrudgingly. We’re skeptical, jaded people. Most of us hesitate to give our spare change to the man in tattered clothes begging for some food because it would be so awful if he spent those 75 cents irresponsibly and squandered our precious money that could have helped purchase tonight’s movie rental.
But homelessness is a real problem here. It’s one we may not want to acknowledge, but it exists. In fact, this Saturday, the second annual Project Homeless Connect will be hosted at Mt. Zion Community Center. Area businesses, churches, clubs and organizations are all pitching in to provide free services and resources to those low-income and no-income families out there. Some people in this community are prepared to lay aside their skepticism and judgment to actually help people who are in need. It’s a fabulous program that I’m excited to see back again this year.
It’s so encouraging to be part of a community that can come together for an event like Project Homeless Connect. My hope is this event will start a passion for caring that folks like you and me can spread throughout the rest of the year.