Monday, 29 April 2013

Homeless for a Purpose

“I sold all I had. What I could not sell, I gave away. I bought a Volkswagen vehicle large enough to sleep in and just left. God called me to the streets. He called me to the broken and lonely people of the world. He called me to be a bridge between the rich and the poor.”

These are the words of Brandt Russo. He is a young man who lives in Los Angeles, California, in the United States. A few years ago, he decided to make some major changes in his life. He was a college student. He owned many things, but he decided to give all of them away. He also decided to leave his home and live on the streets. He chose to become homeless on purpose. Today’s Spotlight is about why some people choose to be homeless.

A person who is homeless does not have an established or set shelter. The United Nations says that there are about 100 million homeless people in the world.

There are many different reasons why people become homeless. For example, many people have lost their homes because of the bad economy. Without good paying jobs, they are unable to continue paying their rent, taxes, or bank payments. Other people lose their homes in an accident - like a fire, a large flood, or a storm. Other people have a difficult time finding or keeping jobs even in a good economy. Often this is because they lack education or struggle with issues like mental illness, drug use, or drinking too much alcohol.

Another major cause of homelessness around the world is the destruction of “slums.” A slum is a part of a large city where the poorest people live. Slums are often highly populated areas with very basic shelters. When large cities expand, companies destroy the slums to make room for new buildings. The people who lived in the slums cannot pay to live in these new buildings. So they are left without homes.

For homeless people, life can be very difficult and dangerous. It is difficult to visit a doctor without money. So, homeless people can become very sick without good medical care. Living homeless can also be very unsafe. Homeless people have to worry about violence and attacks. Without shelter, they have no security. Weather can also make things very hard. Rain, wind and cold temperatures can make life very difficult.

Homelessness has many causes and it produces many negative effects. It is a very complex problem. And there is no simple solution. However, Brandt Russo believes there is an important first step to helping the homeless. This step is understanding and even experiencing their situation. Russo told Enoch magazine,

“I just think you can never fully understand or truly relate to a person in poverty unless you have experienced it in some part.”

Russo decided to become homeless after reading a book called Irresistible Revolution. The book is written by Christian writer Shane Claiborne. You may have heard another Spotlight program about Shane Claiborne and his organization “The Simple Way.” The group members choose to live with very little money and things.

After reading the book, Russo decided to live among the homeless. He believed it would help him discover

“It completely changed my life … It opened a new level of understanding and mercy that you never fully recognize until you experience it.”

However, making the decision was not easy. Choosing to live homeless meant changing his life completely. He told Enoch Magazine about his homeless life:

“Every day is different. I have no idea what I am going to do from day to day. Some nights I am sleeping on the streets with the homeless. I do this because I do not want to leave them. Other nights, I am sleeping on the floor of a very large house.”

Many people and organizations have similar ideas to Russo. They think that a person must experience homelessness to understand it. The Church Under the Bridge is in the city of Waco, Texas in the United States. This church helps people experience and understand homelessness. They run a program called “Poverty Simulation.” In this program, students and young people live on the streets of Waco for two days. They bring only a sleeping bag or a blanket and a few pieces of clothing.

This way of life is very different for the students. The students are used to having money and resources. They are even used to having luxury items like cars, mobile telephones and computers. However, during the “Poverty Simulation” they cannot bring these items with them. They must sleep in the streets.  They do not have any money.  And they must find ways to get food. It can be very difficult.

The Waco “Poverty Simulation” is a very short experience. However, this experience helps these students understand better how homeless people live. David Sheern is a student who attended a “Poverty Simulation”. He told the Baylor University news organization about the experience:

“The hardest thing is being without power. You have no choice in what you can have. You depend on the mercy of the people around you.”

Source: Spotlight Radio Program

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