As someone who lives within a mile of the Upper Room and Mercy Way Rescue Church, I consider the houseless population on Broadway to be my neighbors. They don’t live in huge decorated houses or drive fancy cars; instead they sleep at church shelters or in tents under the stars. They walk on dirt paths by the blackberries and under the oaks, much like the miners and Native Americans who lived here before us. I am not frightened by my homeless neighbors. They do not accost me on my walks down Broadway or on the bike trail. I do not see trash or obscene behavior on the paths they walk. They have never harassed me or made me feel unsafe. Their presence is a peaceful one and some have even become my friends.
One day while driving down Broadway, out of curiosity, I stopped by to visit Mercy Way Rescue Church. I visit many churches. Mercy Way serves the homeless population and others who study the Bible and want to live in community with Christ. What I found when I entered were friendly, welcoming pastors and a room full of kind, humble men and women for whom life has been a real trial. All treated me warmly, graciously and with respect. Some told me their stories of being in the Child Protective Services system for years, suffering abuse and neglect from parents or family members or not having any family at all. Many were badly damaged at times in their lives and have never felt the safety and love of a real home. Others battle with major health problems such as diabetes, MS, heart disease or mental illness as well as struggling with lack of shelter. Most have lived in this area for many years and at some time did have work and a home.
I go to Mercy Way Rescue Church regularly now and worship with them and offer art projects. They are human beings like me, with children they worry about, days that are sometimes hard and lonely and creative talents too. Many battle with depression and addictions that are hard to beat while living on the street. Some work, but still can’t pay local rents. Mercy Way Rescue Church and the Upper Room give them support, community and the dignity they deserve. I see them as the very folks Jesus said to clothe and feed. They are the weak and poor in spirit that those of us with means are called to minister to.
It is my hope that the police, politicians and citizens of Placerville can find it in their hearts to treat these people with the compassion and assistance they deserve. Hard as it is to see and accept for some, they are residents of Placerville in their own right. They are our neighbors. May Placerville treat them as such.