― Mike McIntyre,
On the morning of October 2, 2015, I participated in (and led!) my first street outreach event helping the homeless. I started working at Central Louisiana Homeless Coalition just a month and a half prior and I was nervous and excited for this milestone in my career. Myself and a group of about five volunteers left our offices at 5am to search for central Louisiana’s homeless. At our first stop, we found roughly 10-12 men and women sleeping at the amphitheater! Carefully waking these individuals up to assess them and inform them of available resources, I saw how real of a problem homelessness is in my hometown.
I met with one gentleman named Keith. Keith sobbed as he shared with me his story of how he became homeless and the news that his fiance was expecting their first child! I cried too.
Now as you know, early October mornings in Louisiana aren’t terribly cold. Dressed for walking, I was wearing a thin t-shirt and blue jeans. I realized my mistake when the fall wind blew over the Red River and I began shivering talking to Keith. At this moment I saw the compassion of a man who had nearly nothing to his name. Seeing me shiver, Keith took off the thin blanket that he was sleeping with and wrapped it around my shoulders to keep me warm from the winds. I cried some more.
Unfortunately Keith is still on the streets today. We are diligently working with him to get his family qualified and in stable housing. I’d like this story to remind our readers that people who are homeless are still people. They have families, dreams, a past and a future, struggles, highs and lows, and compassion. The next time you see a homeless person, take time to be friendly, learn their name and their story. You’ll take away much more than you’re giving.