The bestseller novelist, Danielle Steel, went through the loss of her son, Nick, which altered her life altogether. While mourning, one day she asked God for ‘something to hold on’ and her prayer was immediately answered: “Help the homeless,” said God.
With a significant hesitation, it being against her nature, she finally decided to take the challenge: “Okay God, I get it, I hear you….Okay, I’ll do it.” She urged to serve the homeless with utter selflessness, devotion and quietness. “We represented no church, no religion, no agency, no shelter. We wanted nothing from them.”
Danielle started distributing but soon she realized that their needs were beyond some material goods. The best thing she could give them had been Hope. “…hope that something can change, that someone cares, that not only bad things happen unexpectedly but good things can happen to us too.” It was the motivation that kept Daniel stick to her mission, despite all the expected risks and insecurities on the way. Soon, she became aware on the matter further: “I had a strong sense that those who were in the most dire need, or the least functional, were not able to find their ways to dining rooms, churches or shelters. I wanted to go to them and find them where they were.”
Later, she learnt about the horrors that the homeless confront every moment, still for many of them it was a familiar world. “Although the risks and discomforts on the street are obvious, for many homeless people it is a comfortable, familiar world.” Unexpectedly, she found them so grateful and well behaved in response to her service and said: ‘Thank you’ and “God bless you”.
Working on a noble project as this was not easy at all as a lot of risks and dangers were expected to happen any time. Still, she came across some willing hearts who wanted to join her in this service. Each one of them tailored a specialized role for him/her to take care of diverse dimensions of the operation. “There seemed to be no overlap of services. We had each found a niche and a role we were good at. And the homeless needed us all.”
On a point Danielle felt that no danger on the street could harm her and her team, as they were working on an idea that was proposed by God. She shared her views with a priest who replied: “…the church does not canonize the foolish.” It guided her reviewing her approach in a context where their van could be hijacked and where “many people living on streets have weapons. Some have guns, but knives were more current, and getting stabbed was a real possibility for us…. More than once I asked myself what I was doing. I am a single mother of eight children who needed me. ”
On her way to community service, Danielle came to know how hostile the society and government were towards them under the cover of a support program for the homeless. Then, she got the answer why they preferred to be on street rather than accessing the help programs. “They are the truly forgotten people of the streets, and the ones in the greatest need. If we don’t reach out to them, who will? Almost no one does….There is nowhere else for them to go. Some are too physically and mentally sick to do anything other than what they’re doing….I have looked into their eyes, the tears rolling down their cheeks. If that’s the best we can do to solve the problem, it’s a sorry statement about us and our cities. ”
Danielle narrated the gut-wrenching true stories of the homeless she came across during the 11 years of her social work for them. She disclosed the complexity of the matter: “Homelessness is not just about not having a job or an apartment. Too often homelessness is due to a disordered mind….Most of them are there because they cannot function in society, and are too disabled in some ways to access the help they need….Like drowning people, they cannot save themselves. If they are to be saved, it’s up to us, the functioning members of the society, to do it.”
‘A Gift of Hope’ is a must read, which offers much more details about the issue of Homelessness and motivates us to look into the matter in our regional contexts.