It was a Saturday morning to take care of some errands and I hadn’t really planned on homeless outreach, but God had other ideas.
Driving down a busy road planning to get on the highway and ultimately head towards Joy Junction, I spotted from the corner of my eye a couple of homeless guys on the other side of the road outside a hotel.
I did a quick U-turn and headed back toward them. I parked in the hotel lot, grabbed a couple of fast food cards and walked a few feet over to the men.
One guy was sitting up. He was wearing a well worn shirt and jeans, and had a backpack and a radio by his side next to a blue Walmart shopping bag. I asked him if he was hungry. He quickly responded that he was. I gave him my Joy Junction business card and a $5 gift card, explaining that he could at least get a hamburger or two and a cup of coffee.
The man got up on his feet, thanked me and shook my hand. As he did I noticed that his hands were terribly swollen. He wobbled a bit as he stood up. Noticing numerous empty cans of Steel Reserve were scattered around where he had been sitting, I suggested he wait a bit before he made his way to get food. He said he would.
I asked the man about his friend, who had been lying down all the time we were talking. He said the guy was okay; he had just been drinking.
I guess our conversation woke him up, because this man, also surrounded by empty cans of Steel Reserve, sat up a bit. He was wearing clothes that had seen better days, and a ball cap turned backwards.
I asked him if he was hungry. In slurred speech he said he was, adding that he was also hot, tired and thirsty.
I gave him a food card, and my Joy Junction business card, both of which he carefully put in his wallet. His hands were surprisingly steady. I pointed north to the fast food restaurant where he could redeem the card for food, but seeing he was even unsteadier on his feet than his friend I also encouraged him to stay where he was for a while before walking anywhere.
However, before I knew it, he had grabbed his green bag – about the same size as carry on luggage for a plane – and wobbled precariously between cars across the road where he flopped down outside a local restaurant. Fearing for his safety, I called the Albuquerque Police Dept. They promised to send an officer. I waited a few minutes, but no officer came, so I drove across the road to the restaurant where the guy was sacked out under a cool tree. In the few minutes I was there, no one appeared to notice the man. It was almost as if he was part of the landscape.
As I pulled back onto the street, the first guy waved. He had also manoeuvered his way across the street and was sitting on the sidewalk. He waved.
As I drove on, I wondered what experiences these two had been through that would make them want to spend the morning drinking. It wasn’t like they were having “fun,” or even just getting slightly “buzzed.” They’d acknowledged that they were both hot, hungry, thirsty and downright uncomfortable.
Yes, I’m sure by now that they were both chronic alcoholics, but the descent into alcoholism doesn’t come overnight. What made them both begin that downward slide? Genetic predisposition, abuse so bad they just wanted to escape the daily monotony of life, depression? I’ll probably never know!
I can’t report any success stories with these two. I pray that ultimately the Holy Spirit breaks through to them, and they find freedom from their addictions and whatever drove them to the place where I found them. I am glad, though, that I spotted these guys-invisible to many, and just “a couple of drunks” to others. Would you please say a prayer for them? A happy ending is still possible!