Early on in my journey of reaching out to the homeless, I discovered that homelessness is not a simple issue. When you think about homelessness, you probably picture the man lying on the pavement or the woman pushing a shopping cart.
The truth is, homelessness takes many forms. For some, it is the lack of physical shelter. For others, it’s a lack of stability. “Home” could be a friend’s couch, a foster home, a motel room, or even prison.
I share the story of Joyce. Her story illustrates this reality, and why I lead Orange County Rescue Mission to minister to the Least, the Last and the Lost.
“We’re losing her.” Joyce was in the emergency room, surrounded by nurses. Her body was in shock. The sudden withdrawal from drugs proved to be too much. Now the medical staff were looking for a vein . . . that would save her life.
But what lead to this moment on the brink of death?
Joyce’s parents provided shelter and food. But to do that they both worked long hard days, without enough supervision for their kids. Left to her own devices as a young teenager growing up in a rough neighborhood, Joyce soon drifted to a way of life that her parents could not control.
The lures of a “good time” is strong during the teen years, and Joyce fell into the trap, totally oblivious of the price she would pay. Her exterior was already toughening up, not wanting to reveal anything about how she felt about her circumstances. Before long she was living in group homes and then juvenile detention.
It is easier for you and I to have sympathy and compassion for troubled children and youth. There is the understanding that they don’t know any better, or they can’t change their circumstances on their own. During her teen years, Joyce may have had a chance to change the direction of her life: prevention, of her life becoming totally out of control. But that is not Joyce’s story.