245 bags have been pledged by my readers, friends, Girl Scout Troop and church family. Dozens more of you have committed to making something, but not a number (that's ok! something is awesome!). I had one reader, Aimee, suggest making bags for dogs, too. A ball, treat, baggies for poo, maybe even a leash or a chew toy. I LOVE that idea. I am in the process of securing a plan for our Christmas Day service act, as well.
Please remember that the bags, can be as big or as small as you like. They can have one item or a dozen. They can be snacks, a meal, change, toiletries, socks, dog toys, anything. We can't give out big bags like we did the first week every week, as those had many items in them and were about $8 each. This week I have a large box of peanut-butter crackers and apples in my car to hand out. Next week it might be bars of soap and a granola bar. The week after it might be blankets from the thrift store.The point is to actively love people.
If you are helping in any way, would you do me a huge favor and take pictures of your sweet, smiling faces with your bags? I'd love to just share what you all are doing. If you are a blogger yourself, would you post pictures of you doing your bags and then link back to the Action and a Call for Help post here? I just want everyone who has agreed to help to have a chance to be encouraged by each other.
When we first began thinking about how we would help the area homeless, I was curious exactly how large Sacramento's homeless population is. I found this study done in 2011 by a consulting firm. It was estimated that Sacramento County's homeless population is about 2,300 people. I was and still am shocked by this number. It seems so low. I read in the study that they get the count by gathering volunteers and literally do a head count the best of their abilities.
Volunteers physically counted around 900 people, and after handing the data to their statisticians, the firm came to the final number of an estimated 2,300 people who are described as "chronically homeless". I don't know how they came to that number, or how accurate it is, but 2,300 does not seem like that many for a county the size of Sacramento. There are 1,436,105 residents in Sacramento County according to the 2011 Census.
I don't understand how a population so small, by comparison, could be so under-served. It makes me realize how little we do as a church and how big our impact could be just by doing a little, and I mean a really little bit. I have always wondered why I don't care more given what I know about the population.
Some have been on the streets their whole lives. Some are on the streets because of a lifetime of poor choices they made for themselves. Some are on the streets because of poor choices others made and they found themselves in a place they cannot escape. They have been and continue to be abused, addicted, shamed, mistreated, ignored and are largely poorly educated.
This weekend the Bee ran this article about how fed up some business owners are with the homeless population and the people who feed them (oh, hey, that's us!). I can see why business owners might be frustrated, but I can't help but be worried that people who are already hurting will get hurt further.
I don't know why God is moving my heart towards homeless, but I am glad He is doing it. I'm goig to go ahead and blame Proverbs.
Right now these Proverbs are reverberating in my brain:
If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord - and he will repay you! 19:17I am so encouraged by you all. Thank you.
Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give. 21:26
The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both. 22:2
Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor. 22:9