Homelessness is a part of serving those in need. FCOC serves several individuals who don’t have a home base. Below is an example of a young man constantly moving from one place to another.
A 35-year-old homeless man registered with us several years ago. Jake, a name I’ll use to protect his identity, is allowed to come to the Flushing Christian Outreach Clothing Center and Food Center as needed. FCOC provides free food, personal care items, clothing and services. FCOC focuses on offering healthy products and food that does not need cooking.
Last week, Jake visited the Clothing Center. “Hey, Jake,” I asked, “How’s the lay of the land treating you?”
“Gittin’ a bit chillier at night. I’m hopin’ to find a coat t’day and, maybe, a hat and gloves?”
“Of course,” I smiled. Jake began swishing hangers to one side, creating a dull squeaking sound, as I headed over to the hats and gloves basket.
Shortly after, Jake started whistling a tune as he sashayed toward me like he was walking the runway at a Paris fashion show. “This parka shore makes me look reeeaaaal goooood, right? He looked in the mirror running his eyes up and down. It must be real expensive. Hmmm…, Jake continued, “I only have a million dollars on me. Whatchu willing ta take?”
We both laughed as I said, “How about free?” Together, we looked at the winter accessories.
His prior visits at the Clothing Center consisted of finding like-new clothing so that he could change at the center and toss his filthy clothing in the dumpster. Jake had been wearing what was on his back for at least a couple of weeks by then.
After commercial laundry machines were purchased by FCOC recently, due to a generous grant awarded to the Clothing Center by the United Way. Now, volunteers are able to wash Jake’s dirty clothing when he will pick up the next time he comes in for a visit. We always set aside a pair of size 11 walking shoes or boots for him to take, as well. Shoes worn by homeless people tend to wear out quickly due to the amount of walking they do.
Jake packed his tattered duffle bag with a set of new towels, underwear, socks, and a handful of peppermint candy from one of the volunteers. His shoes were so damaged they were thrown away. Unfortunately, he can only carry a limited amount of food and clothing on foot.
Jake began talking to a new volunteer, “I’ve been around the foster care system since I was a lit’l. I wasn’t that great of a foster child. Wow! I can’t believe some of da stuff I did! Actually, I even did some time in my 20’s.”
Dressed in clean and warm clothes, Jake carried food and personal care items in his backpack and well-worn duffle bag as he headed toward the front door. Jake stopped when he reached a few more of FCOC volunteers.
He said softly and looking in each person’s eyes, “I don’t know why you folks care at all about me.” He quickly wiped a tear from his eye and then added, “I feel loved, and I love all of you.” Quickly composing himself, he bellowed for everyone to hear, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, “I’ll be back!”
We’ll see Jake in a few weeks. He knows there are people at the center who care about him. Even though it seems scary and greatly difficult to imagine ourselves in Jake’s position, we must remember, “Not all who wander are lost.”