More than one person in my home church has asked me about how they can help the homeless of Hagerstown. I suggested to one mom to make zip lock bags filled with snacks and useful items that can be given out instead of money but after a few months they wanted to take it to the next level. I'm not really sure how I became the nominated person for this pursuit. Maybe it's this story I've told a few times, this is really where I began to see homeless people differently. When you put a name to a face and learn someone's story, it's not easy to look away.
It was suggested that we could serve at a soup kitchen or support a local shelter but I wanted to know more from a homeless person directly as to what needs they wanted fulfilled. Literally one week later I came across a homeless women in the City Park. She caught my attention because it was a cold day and not one where you'd usually find people in the park. I happened to be there because my two oldest were taking an art class and the younger set convinced me to let them play for a bit.
Lisa, I'll withhold her last name for privacy, has been homeless for two years. She says someone from her prior work told lies to her boss and got her fired. She lost her apartment, car, and cats. She said this person has friends in the Hagerstown police department and she thinks they have gone to the Reach center in town to spread more lies about her so she can no longer get a room there. She said the Salvation Army has also banned her so she's sleeping on the street at night unless other police officers, not associated with her tormentor, can help convince Reach to give her a bed for the night. All she wants is to get a job, an apartment, and hopefully another cat.
The biggest problem for Lisa is finding a safe place for her stuff. She has an overflowing shopping cart that contains all her worldly belongings. She's terrified of losing the items in this cart because she has no way to replace anything with no income.
Lisa has no disabilities, no children, no drugs or drinking issues, no history of sexual abuse, and she believes she has no mental disabilities so this pretty much rules out all the options that are available to homeless or people of need in Hagerstown.
Her story begs many questions but until I could find her again, I decided to research resources in Hagerstown, maybe there was something she missed.
I visited my favorite local charity, the Hope Center to find out what they provide but it turns out they only offer rooms for men and two meals a day to anyone who needs it. I asked if they might know why Reach would bar someone from their facility and the lady said she didn't know. I went to the Reach website and they have strict rules due to drugs and alcohol abuse, I assume they need to look out for the safety of their volunteers.