On November 8th, two young College students called the Mission and told me about a documentary they wanted to make about the Homeless problem. After talking with one of them I realized they really didn’t have much experience with the homeless and invited them to take a ride-a-long with the Care-A-Van that night. Two young college students came away with a whole new insight about homelessness. Let me step aside now while you enjoy reading in their own words, Hunter Ryan and Britney Atkins experiences that night.
Who would’ve thought that one night could change someone’s perspective on a certain demographic, the homeless. Growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey, in a secluded town with nothing around can cause you to have a bubble form. This bubble keeps you from seeing the misfortunes of the world and protects you from the scary outside world.
Last Tuesday, the bubble that surrounded me my entire life was popped. That night I went out with Beacon Light Missions, Care-A-Van, who serves and ministers to the homeless in the areas where they reside/live and eke out their meager existence. The Mission passes out socks, blankets, hygiene products, water and a variety of donated products.
This was the first time I actually had a conversation with a homeless person and it opened up my eyes to a whole new life. People perceive the homeless as burdens and dangerous scary public figures on the street, but when I talked to them I got the opposite reaction.
I felt the love and compassion they had for the world. They were grateful for the charity and kindness that people displayed to them. It humbled me to see them not complain about the food being too cold or the sandwich being too dry. Instead, they continued to show the love they had for a total stranger. This simple bottle of water and a sandwich which had just been made a few hours earlier at the Mission, along with soup, was cherished by so many people on the street. The look in the people’s eyes that I talked to and served, made me feel so happy.
Learning about their lives and humanizing them really changed my outlook on who the homeless population are. My blinded bubbled life had never experienced the worry of not having clean water. These men and women cannot just open their fridge and grab a bottle of water, nor can they run to the faucet. If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.
One person that I talked to explained to me his life struggles while growing up and the events that lead him to live on the streets. He explained to me his daily struggles of finding food and shelter for those cold nights that are present through the winter. I could never imagine 25 years of being homeless but he managed. The struggles that he spoke of were just heartbreaking and I never knew people could go through such tragic things that would lead them to become homeless and scared. With all the struggles he faced throughout his life he was still able to be so thankful for the life that he has. It was very heartwarming when we were talking and he showed me respect. He enlightened me by showing me that even though bad things happen never give up and never take anything for granted.
Many of us take for granted our food and shelter, and disillusioned to the struggles that many Americans face each and every day. Talking with these men and women helped me learn more about myself and the world that I live in. Even though I went out to talk to the homeless for a class project, I would not limit this experience to just a requirement for school. The education that this experience gave me is something you cannot learn in a classroom. The feeling of giving something away that some else donated to people who are struggling to survive is indescribable. The effort and support that Beacon Light Mission and Doors of Hope does for the people in their community is just heartwarming and it makes me want to join them every Tuesday for their outstanding deeds of helping others.
I would like you to take a step back and look at our own country and the problems that are present throughout our cities. I always thought that when you give a homeless person money, they would just use it to buy drugs and not use it for the right reasons, such as food and water. But now, every time I see a homeless person I will stop, have a conversation with them, and offer them a nice meal. Because what’s so wrong with treating them like decent human beings they really are…
I am a freshman at Marymount California University who is focusing on Film and Media Production. The purpose for contacting Beacon Light Mission was to help raise awareness about our homeless community that lives just down the street from some of us. We take things for granted everyday from the clothes we are wearing to the food we eat but these homeless people thank everyone for the littlest things. Britney and I want to spread the word that they’re our people within our cities that need our help right now and by making a documentary we think that will be the best way to show our community the forgotten community, just down the street.
As a person coming from a perfectly, imperfect household, I know what it’s like to be on the outside of “normal.” With a mother who has openly battled a mental illness in the public eye and has been ridiculed for something out of her control, it has changed the way I look at things that do not go about societal norms. Being that my mother has battled Bipolar Schizophrenia and has done things that have gotten her into situations such as landing in jail, homeless, or in a mental intuition, I came to realize after visiting Doors of Hope and Beacon Light Mission, and going on the tour to feed the homeless, how critical a support system is for not only people who battle mental illness, but people who are homeless as well. I realized a lot of people aren’t as fortunate to be aware of the many factors that lead into people ending up homeless and often leave it up to media to get their facts and normally end up stigmatizing them.
When first coming up with the idea with my film partner to do a documentary about the homeless, I knew I had a passion for finding out more about the mentally ill and exposing certain truths that I knew a lot of society did not know about. But after collaborating with my partner, it turned into a short documentary on the effects of mental illness on the homeless.
I was ultimately satisfied with the topic because I was still exploring my passion, but also doing something I pretty much thought I knew about. But, after getting in touch with Doors of Hope/Beacon Light Mission and interacting with some of the homeless on the streets and bushes of our community, it made me reevaluate myself. It made me realize I was doing the very thing I sought out not to do, which was stigmatizing this community of loveable people.
I was associating mental illness with everyone I spoke with because of what I knew in the past. I wasn’t allowing myself to see the diversity in the homeless community. So, within the very first stop of the tour I had to keep my biased questioning to a minimum and just listen. I realized a lot in that small population of homeless individuals, many of them are very intellectual and have very sound minds. When I just let them talk instead of assuming or questioning them, I seemed to get a much more honest response from a lot of them. I had some tell me drugs was a reason that they were out there, others tell me loss of a job was the reason, and even someone told me that being homeless was much easier than worrying about trying to be a part of society.
When some of the homeless told me that being homeless was easier than being part of society, I didn’t understand it. But, later into the tour I got to experience some of the harsh treatment many of them get. As we were handing out food to some of the homeless, a car drove up and took a picture with a look of disdain on their face.
At first, I didn’t comprehend the harsh look and picture until one of the members of the group told me, that they do that a lot so they can use the pictures as ammo to help get rid of homeless and beautify their city. They also went on to mention how they get some backlash for trying to help the homeless, which struck me as strange considering many people if put into the same situation would more than likely be grateful for the help. But nevertheless, the actions of that person in the car, gave me even more reasoning to want to go forward with this documentary and try to expose the many different factors that go into a person becoming homeless.
I personally chose filming this experience because of how much media impacts viewer’s thoughts. In movies, on social media sites and even advertisements show only the negative associations of homelessness. They never want to delve into reality and my goal for this project is to try and aim for some form of realism. I want to make people feel again and get in touch with themselves and develop that empathy that so many individuals have lost. I want to make sure people realize that this is a societal issue and that each person has the power to lift up another.
I am a freshman at Marymount California University who is focusing on Film and Media Production. The purpose for contacting Beacon Light Mission was to help raise awareness of the issues that plague our homeless community and allow people to see some things that we take for granted every day. I want to make people ‘Love thy neighbor’ (Mark 12:31) and really get back into touch with acting as one big diverse community.