Just when I was starting to grasp the devastation in a person's life who is dealing with homelessness and addiction, our LORD has added another devastating ingredient to the nightmare for me to learn about. That added ingredient is prostitution. For the past week or so and especially in the last 48 hours, I've begun to see the inside story of being a woman who is homeless and addicted and funding her addiction through prostitution. What follows is a beginner's essay on what I've discovered...
Last night, I was under a bridge giving away waters and chatting with any man or woman who wanted to talk. There were about forty people gathered, some smoking crack, others injecting heroin, another sweeping the open areas between mattresses and one playing with the resident (pregnant) cat
. Some were playing cards and others were sitting around just talking the way anyone gathered in a small group of friends would do.
And then there were the younger women... not all of them mind you but enough that I noticed. Clothing and jewelry were a notch fancier than they had been in my earlier visit and purses were larger. Some were catching one last smoke of crack or injection of heroin before they left for their first customer. Each one, someone's daughter or sister or aunt or mother...
One of these women - although to be fair, I'm not sure she is prostituting her self - selected several pieces of clothing from my supply and asked if I could hold them until this morning. When I arrived at this community about an hour before church at Urban Hope today, to give these clothes to this young lady who was considering going to church with me, one of her girlfriends was just coming back from her night "at work." She was exhausted and wasted on drugs and/or alcohol.
To protect her anonymity, I've changed this young lady's name. I had not seen her the night before and she introduced herself as the first letter of her name (which, by the way, is also changed).
Hi. I'm R.
At that exact moment, one of the ladies who I did know from previous visits said,
Chris, this is Rachel.
Looking a bit annoyed, Rachel caved in to being called by her actual name.
Hi, Rachel. I'm Chris but you can call me "C."
Both ladies laughed.
Later in the day, I visited this under-bridge community again. Rachel picked out a few clothes. I tried to be sure that the collection that she had to choose from was not too hot, not too Amish, but "just right." :) During that selection process, Rachel and I chatted about life.
As I do with everyone, I try to make it clear that I'm doing these things for each person because I care and, more importantly, Jesus Loves them. In Rachel's case, this understanding of Jesus' love for her was better understood following eight years of Catholic School Education. She shared with me her love of science and her professional goal of earning an advanced medical degree all of which was ended by legal problems that have her now on the street, homeless, without family, addicted to a substance that may kill her instantly the next time she sticks a needle in her arm, thigh, cheek, hand or any body part that has an available vein and "working" as a prostitute to support this potentially deadly addiction. Rachel loves fruit, especially strawberries, and never gets any. She carries a box cutter for self-protection in case any "men" try to get away with more than what is in her required job description. Rachel is twenty-five years old. Rachel is her Mom and Dad's daughter.
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