Breakthrough Urban Ministries. Dinner is Served.

You know, people are in this place for a lot of different reasons. It can happen to anyone.” – Beverly, Chicago resident

The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports that there are 21,000 homeless people in Chicago on any given night. (Source: Breakthrough website)

In October, I had the chance to visit with and serve dinner to the women living in Breakthrough’s Intervention House for Women on Carroll Street in Chicago. Basic needs being met, i.e. food, water, and shelter, is a constant challenge to someone living on the streets and this place of transition provides all three for the women staying there.

After the meal was served, when I initially sat down with my plate, I tried to act as natural as possible.  It can be intimidating to join a table where you don’t know anyone, especially when you come to give and you are not sure of the audience receiving.  The power shifts. Beverly was sitting across from me and her, along with the others, I felt, went out of their way to make me feel welcome. She complimented me a number of times and thanked me for the food.  She reminded me that what had happened to her could happen to anyone.  She never planned to call this place her home.  She corrected me when I referred to it as a shelter, calling it a transitional space.  She also hesitated to share any details with me about the job interview she had the following day, except that it was within her capability, she was ready, and she was hopeful.

Throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but think about the amount of unrealized freedom that is taken away from someone when they are homeless.  What are the effects of becoming homeless?  What is the trauma on a person?  Breakthrough Ministries looks to provide and support the individual getting back on their feet and moving forward.  In case of trauma, what compels a person to continue or what forces them to sit down in their reality?

As I share a piece of Beverly’s story, I cannot help but think of Jonathan Lear’s book Radical Hope.  How through reading it, I caught a glimpse of the history of trauma experienced by the Crow tribe, as they were moved to a different part of the country decided by the government. As their freedom somewhat dissipated, did their culture disappear, as well?  An evaporated history that has started to vanish into the background of the American flag.  Is Beverly in that blended image, as well?


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