What causes someone to become homeless? It is a common question I’ve been asked many times in my 35 years of working with vulnerable populations. Recently, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported the top causes of homelessness among families were lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, and low wages. Causes of homelessness and addiction tend to focus on physical needs. However, we know that homelessness isn’t just a material issue.
Many people in our shelters and recovery program have broken relationships with loved ones and family because of destructive life choices. The loneliness, desperation and alienation that often follow poor decisions can lead to even greater despair and hopelessness. Isolation is also one of the biggest warning signs in addictive behavior. Someone who is isolated from friends and family usually indicates something seriously wrong.
At St. Matthew’s House, we believe the antidote for this suffering can be found in the book of Genesis. As human beings created in God’s image, it is not good for man to be alone. Far from an impersonal ‘higher power’ who flung the universe into existence, Jesus personally experienced grief, sorrow, and intense physical and mental suffering. Over 2,000 years ago, while Jesus was on earth, “he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3). In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, just before dying on the cross, Jesus cried out the first part of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The writer of Hebrews says Jesus is able to empathize with our weaknesses.
In the same way, we are called to serve our neighbors when they feel most isolated, broken and alone. Some people describe St. Matthew’s House as a family of last resort, providing a meal, a safe place to sleep, and freedom from addiction for those who have nowhere else to turn. But God desires us to more than subsist, he desires us to have a full and abundant life. We are driven to see lives transformed, and in Jesus’s words, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) This is the hope that we have on Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, and every day in between. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!
St. Matthew’s House will be serving Easter dinner to the community this Sunday, April 21, at noon in Naples at Campbell Lodge, 2001 Airport Road South, Naples, FL 34112.
Vann Ellison is the President and CEO of St. Matthew’s House
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For over thirty years, St. Matthew’s House has provided innovative solutions to fight homelessness, hunger, substance abuse, and poverty in Southwest Florida. St. Matthew’s House is a 501(c)(3) that does not depend upon government funding. The organization also has a 100% donation model that allows all operating expenses to be covered by unique social enterprises.
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