January 17, 2014

It's Cold Outside

We've had a few cold nights lately here in Tampa. For some of us, it's been nice, almost fun. We get to wear an extra layer of clothing that doesn't get much use throughout the year, or we make some hot cocoa and curl up with a loved one. When you live in Florida, cold weather is a novelty. But when you live on the streets, even in Florida, the cold can be a threat. Exposure, hypothermia, and increased vulnerability to sickness are just part of the experience of a cold night for our already vulnerable neighbors. 

When the temperature drops below 40°, emergency shelters open for one nights to accommodate extra guests who would otherwise be at serious risk to the cold. Considering how few there are in the whole county, it can often be helpful to have a friend who is willing to drive someone to a shelter. Calling the shelter ahead of time to find out how it works is also a good idea. But if that seems like a little too much running around, you can always host someone in your own home for the night.  

Seriously, a lot of us at the Well have done this in our own homes. In fact, a few of us are hosting people in our homes right now and it's worked out tragically comically pretty well, all things considered. But you have to be pretty cautious when hosting someone who has been on the streets. In today's world, you just can't be too careful. It's easy to take someone in with good intentions, only to find out how things really work. 

The ways things really work is often that we can be mean and judgmental instead of hospitable. Our capacity for kindness is stretched, or we're not very patient, or maybe we even say that we love them, but we just don't want to find out if that's true. We may offer to take someone in, but not spend time with them. Or we may be so afraid of them that we make them feel unwelcome. We may even argue with them about their life, as if we had already earned a place in their life to talk about such personal matters. These are things to be on the lookout for when hosting a homeless person. 

As you can see, it really can be tricky to host a homeless person in your own home. If you think that you might not be up to the task, feel free to give them a lift to one of the shelters listed below. 

Brandon Community Center (homeless individuals & families with children)
510 E Sadie St.

Metropolitan Ministries (families)
2010 N Florida Ave

Salvation Army (adults, no families)
1514 N Florida Ave

Town 'N Country
Jackson Springs Recreation Center (adults & families)
8620 Jackson Springs Road

Wimauma Community Center (adults & families)
5705 Hillsborough St

Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, "I came as a guest, and you received Me." (Matthew 25:35)... In the salutation of all guests, whether arriving or departing, let all humility be shown. Let the head be bowed or the whole body prostrated on the ground in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.
The Rule of St. Benedict

Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg

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