Given Value and Dignity | Elizabeth Hobafcovich
“No story. Just homeless.”
This is what I read on a piece of cardboard lying next to a homeless man who was fast asleep in midtown Manhattan. Wondering what I could do to help, I truly felt helpless. I wanted to wake him, sit with him, and hear his story. Imagine getting to such a low point where you feel your life story doesn’t even merit telling? Imagine being labeled, self-identifying yourself as your failures. I so wanted to have a human connection with him, look him in the eyes and remind him of his innate dignity and value given to him by God.
As I kept walking, I saw another man, yet again asleep, with a sign that said “Does anyone see me? I feel like a ghost.” Another outward expression of a deep inward pain. I have had my struggles and pains in life, but never have I felt sub-human. It’s challenging even to empathize with that pain- and yet I walked away such a weighty sadness in my soul. I couldn't merely just throw money in a cup and keep walking.. there has to be something more.
Living in New York City, I am fully aware that homelessness is a deeply complex issue. Intertwined with addiction, mental illness, and physical disability it’s something that we can no longer put a bandaid on. It is a gaping, gushing wound that needs a deep healing touch. People fall on both sides of the spectrum- some have preconceived ideas about the homeless population that keeps them in a place of comfy indifference. Others have a “save the world” complex and believe that by merely meeting the tangible needs in front of them, the issue is solved. The reality is that both are sorely wrong.
I am not coming to this conversation with the solution. I am still very much wrestling with this. Everyday when people ask me for money, I have to depend on God to lead me, and sometimes I come with a judgmental attitude too. I am the last one that can point a finger. What I DO know is that God has created every person- even those addicted to drugs, even those pulling a scam on the trains, even those who are merely a paycheck away from being on the streets, even those who some may deem as “deserving” of losing their home- in His image. This means that they have the innate value and dignity within their very being because the Creator Himself gave it to them. You can’t take away something that is in the very fiber of your being.
I am part of a movement called The Known Campaign and our mission is to engage, clothe, and love the homeless community in New York City. We want to not only have tangible expressions of love (beautifully designed hoodies, toiletry items, ect) but we use the gift as a bridge to deeply connect with people that are homeless. We believe that every person is intricately known, heard, and loved by God and if you're known by God, you're known by us.