So today I wanted to share a recent experience of mine. Slightly different from the usual posts I write, however, after my night helping with the Redemptorist Homeless Mission night in Liverpool I believe that awareness needs to be raised of the huge need for help for the homeless people on our streets.
I want to share with you my experience of the night, and also tell you how you could get involved. Please, please do get involved. I am really hoping that by using this platform to raise the issue, it will encourage people to talk more about the problem that is homelessness, and hopefully something can be done to find more long-term solutions.
In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect with the mission night. There have been two previous nights in Liverpool, but unfortunately I had been unable to attend them. However, as part of Hope University’s CathSoc, I had helped to organise collection boxes around the university so that both staff and students alike could donate items such as spare hats, coats, sleeping bags, deodorant and facewipes etc to be donated to the people we were to encounter.
On the night, the group of us from Hope travelled to the Metropolitan Cathedral where we met up with Paul (leader of the Redemptorist Mission nights across the UK) and around 20 other people. After a short prayer to kick off proceedings, we split into smaller groups and made our way through the city centre via different routes. By taking this approach, it ensured that we were able to help as many people as possible, and the homeless were not met twice by different groups. This enabled resources to be distributed much more evenly across the city centre.
I was immediately struck by the humility of the homeless people we met. Although we had many bags of resources each, they would only take what they absolutely needed and their gratitude was overwhelming. Throughout the night, the three groups were able to help around 65 people – providing them with warm clothes, hats, sandwiches, hot drinks and personal hygiene items such as tissues, face wipes and sanitary towels. It was incredibly moving and thought-provoking to meet these homeless people and chat to them. Many of them were on the streets because of circumstances beyond their control, such as the breakdown of relationships or being recently released from prison with nowhere to go. My heart ached with sadness for these people, who have ended up with no other option except the streets.
When I was speaking to one of the ladies, I was astonished to hear that she was struggling so much because she wasn’t an alcohol or drug addict. She informed us that homeless people who have these addictions are able to receive help from organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other such groups. She told us that without the work of groups such as the Redemptorists, she simply wouldn’t survive. Hearing her story was absolutely heartbreaking, particularly because this woman was suffering from a heavy cold and was so desperate for a warm place to stay for the night. It is astonishing how in today’s society, where we have so many luxuries in our homes, some people are still out on the street with nothing to their names except the clothes on their backs.
How You Can Help
I really hope that after reading about my experience, you want to know how you can help (if you don’t then this post hasn’t achieved its aim!!). So I thought I’d share with you a few of the ways in which you can get involved.
1) The Redemptorist Homeless Mission Nights
These nights are happening on a regular basis in Liverpool, London, Glasgow and Birmingham. They are organised by Paul Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org) so please get in touch with him to find out more information about the mission nights. Whether you are an individual looking to get involved or a University group etc, there is so much you can do to help. For example, our CathSoc placed collection boxes in all the halls of residence, as well as in the chaplaincy centre. We also spread the word via the many university social media sites. We were also blessed with a large amount of donations of clothes from one of the local Churches and also with a monetary donation which went towards purchasing hot drinks for the homeless people we encountered on the night. Even if you don’t have the resources/contacts to arrange a large scale collection, whatever contribution you can make is so valuable. So whether you can make sandwiches to hand out on the night, volunteer to give out the items or even to just pray for the missions – the littlest thing goes the longest way! I really can’t recommend enough that you go out with the groups and see for yourself the needs of the homeless people, and their gratitude to receive what seems to us like the most insignificant of items. So please, get in touch with Paul and see what you can do to help.
2) Other ways of helping
If the Redemptorists don’t have mission nights going in your city, I encourage you to seek out other ways of helping the homeless. For example, in Liverpool there are also the Missionaries of Charity on Seel Street who also give aid to the homeless in the city. Perhaps see if there are other group such as this that you could help, even by just donating items such as deodorant and toothpaste. After all, we often have multiple of these items lying around while there are people on the streets with nothing.
Even if you can’t find any other charities such as this, I encourage you: If you see someone on the streets who is obviously genuinely homeless, please don’t give them money. Instead, use that money to buy them a warm drink or something to eat (we discovered that Mars bars go down a treat!). Take time to chat to that person and show them that you care.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd that when you feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty, “in so far you did it to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:35-40).
Whenever you help those who are less fortunate than yourself, you are helping Jesus.
When you see the homeless person sat on the street corner, that is Jesus. If we all tried to help even one homeless person a day that we meet, the world would be a much better place. After my experience on Tuesday, I have realised just how great the need is for work such as the Redemptorist Mission Nights. I feel that we were really living that Gospel verse out. Although it was difficult to see how much some people are struggling while we are living in relative luxury, it is so important that we remember how fortunate we are, and to do what we can to make these people’s lives even a little more comfortable.
So please, whatever you can do to help will go such a long way.
Until next time,
P.S. You don’t need to be religious to join in the mission nights – everyone is welcome and the more people who attend, the more people can be helped!