Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Retiring" from the street life

One of the most important - and least-known - ways that Broken Hearts meets the physical needs of those we meet on Thursday and Friday nights, is through what we call the Street Retirement Fund. This past year, it was given to two individuals - one male, one female - to help them get off the street.

The fund is set up as a scholarship of sorts, provided to people we've been in relationship, that we trust, and who are actively working towards getting off the street and becoming productive, emotionally, and spiritually- whole members of society. Essentially, they are required to fill out a proposal with a brief explanation of who why they need the money for housing, and what their goals are as they get off the street. We will pay up to 3 months of their housing while they work on getting clean, and/or getting a job, finding stable living, completing a program, etc. 

Recently a friend of ours (we'll call him 'J') has been working on getting himself into permanent housing and finding a job. He is transitioning from a recovery program to SRO housing, staying in a shelter on Skid Row in the meantime. He had to have a deposit to get into the new place, but has no money. 

I talked to our board this weekend, and we decided if he filled out the Street Retirement proposal, we'd pay for his first 3 months of his living expenses. He would have been able to pay it on his own, except that his General Relief money has to get transferred from his old program back to him, and it would take longer than the time frame he needed to get into new housing. 

This morning he called me bright and early. "Are you up?" he said when I answered. "Uh...not really," I responded, incredibly groggy. I'd answered the random phone number, only because I knew it was probably him expecting money and help getting checked in. I hadn't gotten enough sleep all weekend and didn't expect such an early phone call. But he needed me down there, so I reconfigured my plans for the day and downed as much coffee as I could on my way to Skid Row. The whole process (not being able to check in as early as expected, picking up his stuff being stored in my Basileia office, getting a money order, eating breakfast at some sketchy joint on 7th street) all took WAY longer than expected. 

But as we talked about the Street Retirement Fund during errands, he told me that his General Relief only pays for about 9 months, and then they cut him off for 3 months before it kicks in again. His was about to get cut off and wouldn't have a source of income for the next 3 months. By us offering to pay for exactly 3 months (unexpectedly, because he thought I was going to lend him money for 1 month), it would cover his lapse in government assistance while he got settled and looked for a job!

When I'd thought to have BH help him, I had no idea about that. In fact, in order to stay in his housing he needed to have proof of income. By promising 3 months of provision for him, he could let them know he is covered until GR kicks in again. So cool to see God's hand in this whole process! Especially after Thursday night, when he'd been telling us that his faith had been lacking because he didn't really see God's power or provision much in his life.

What is also encouraging to me is that the Street Retirement Fund doesn't just give money, but helps set goals and check in regularly with our "clients" to make sure they're moving towards their goals and providing for themselves. So as we help 'J' out, he'll also be held accountable for looking for a job, applying for school, and paying for his own rent. Meaning with some assistance, he should be self-sufficient in  a few months...and hopefully with much greater faith in God. Ideally, that would be followed by him being out on the streets with us encouraging others with his story like our other STF recipients have been doing. 

Little sleep and a morning on skid row = totally worth it.

If you'd like to help support more men and women in getting off of the streets, you can donate here: http://prayer.brokenheartsministry.org/donate/

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