Over our last couple of Alabama Christian Freaks get-togethers, we’d developed a consensus that we needed to move forward with a different kind of event — “we” meaning S, J and me, since the our last hanging-out occasion came during a violent storm so it was just their family and me.
This time, again, circumstances conspired to keep several key participants away, so I really wasn’t sure how things would turn out. But as it happened, S and J brought their family and a couple of friends, and we had a nice little rag-tag band to do outreach. We looked around some of the standard squatting places around Birmingham, all of them under overpasses. Maybe it’s just that my previous homeless outreach was in Boston and Cambridge with plenty of other nooks to hide in, but the Magic City sure seems to have a ton of overpasses. In the first place we looked, there were a ton of clothes spread all over the place, a couple of mattresses, and a Bible, but nobody was there! We left several pairs of socks anyway. At our second stop we met a nice gentleman with his tent set up next to a friend’s; apparently the friend had started living at the first of a new series of veterans’ shelters. At our third stop we met a couple who told us about their visit to church that morning — the woman seemed very self-conscious about the clothes she’d worn there. This kicked off a discussion about how God doesn’t care about our appearance when we come to worship him. Then one of our group realized that he’d grown up with the guy’s brother.
One cool aspect was that S and Js kids accompanied us when we got out of the car — first the older two hanging around the guy with the tent, then all three including the 2-year-old at the next stop. However, after that stop, the kids were understandably pretty worn out and hard to deal with, so we needed to wind down, and we still had some 20 to 30 pairs of socks. Fortunately we happened upon a church downtown (one that clearly bills itself as multiracial; I would recognize it if I saw the sign again) that had some sort of food and clothing distribution set up in front of their building. Yet despite all the clothes being handed out, everyone still rushed over to get a pair of socks!
So we were able to get rid of all but maybe a half-dozen of the 50 or so pairs we started with. It seems we met a very real need that was underserved by existing outreach efforts. Much credit to S for proposing this idea!