A Profound, Catastrophic Loss of Family
by Jess Luoma
Watch these short videos & read on to hear about this new series around Catastrophic Loss as a cause of homelessness.
After serving in the streets of the Tenderloin District for many years in San Francisco, my family and I joined the mass Covid exodus from our coastal neighborhood and moved to Redding. As we looked for a neighborhood to settle into, we were struck by how neighborhoods were often described in terms of how many transient, or as some called "untouchable", people there were. The mentality towards people experiencing homelessness was shocking to us. It was as if losing your home also meant losing your humanity in Redding.
When I became a Christian in college, compassion for the poor was one of the first things that I learned when I began to read the Bible. Jesus was unabashedly, radically in love with the ones society hated and pushed aside. Those were the people he sought.
Yet, time and time again, from some Christians and from non-believers, I would hear similar comments made about people who were homeless. A black, homeless man in San Francisco, during the height of the racial injustices of 2020, once told me, "people fear what they do not understand."
As a journalist, I've always sought to understand. And what I have set out to understand is where this seemingly collective mentality comes from. What if it is a fear born from misunderstanding?
We can all agree that homelessness is a complex issue. Our systems have failed to solve it and oftentimes, the need feels too overwhelming for people to take action. Perhaps we feel we can't relate or we've bought into myths like "they have chosen that life."
To begin to change that narrative, we need to allow ourselves to see people who are homeless or addicted as fellow humans again. We need human stories that shed light onto causal traumas that any of us could relate to.
"This is a human issue and requires a human response. The single greatest cause of homelessness is a profound, catastrophic loss of family."
- Alan Graham (Mobile Loaves & Fishes/ Community First! Villages).
As I've pondered this idea over the last year while getting to know folks in various homeless encampments, I've come to wholeheartedly agree. A profound, catastrophic loss of family. A baseline of trauma. Never acquainted with "normal." Open drug use in the home, abuse, neglect, the loss of support, insecure attachment with their primary caregiver, and the list goes on. Families that were severely dysfunctional or not present at all. These are the stories that need to be heard. Maybe they didn't choose this life, it chose them. Maybe they are stuck and don't want hand outs
Join me as I sit down with our homeless neighbors in this ongoing series seeking to understand the root causes of homelessness. Their stories are moving and heartbreaking. Take time to sit with them, to place yourself in their shoes, admire their resilience, to restore to them the dignity of their humanity and to ask yourself: what part can I play?
Now that we've settled down in our home & have lived in Redding for two years, I have discovered the unity of a community who is answering that question, and beautifully so. Shasta Thrive is just one of many organizations of community members not settling for what we see on our streets. I've discovered so many compassionate hearts dedicated to uplifting the marginalized through prayer, friendship, partnership, service and innovation. This is a movement and the best is yet to come.
If you feel you have a part to play, please contact us.