Have you ever met a homeless person? A man or woman who does not have a home or a permanent source of livelihood who does not know what to eat in the morning during the day and often catch up with him without a man-made lodging?
If you live in one of the towns of Slovenia, at least some homeless person has already entered your life for a moment. Nothing strange, because they are close to 1000 of us.
Dragan was one of them.
Before I talk about the help that the homeless can offer to the Catholic Church, I will describe our last meeting.
Dragan sat on a bench in a park near the Ambrožev trg square. I approached as usual and started talking. I do not know exactly what we were talking about, but I remember that I explained to him and his friend how, after all, we were all poor people.
Dragan’s face shook. He looked visibly upset and said, “That’s not true. It’s a lie … You have peace in your heart, but we do not have it! ”
I am convinced that Dragan with these words told the deepest truth about who homeless people are. Their life is not difficult primarily due to exposure to cold and rain, lack of food and decent clothes, and alcohol addiction is not their biggest problem. The most important pain and the most difficult misery of the majority of Slovenian homeless people and homeless people lies in the interior, in their hearts. The most hurt is that they are not loved, so few people accept them as they are. Their lifestyle is merely an outward expression of their inner impatience and lack of power to cope with the problems that life brings them.
It is difficult to describe who are homeless and what are the causes of their life situation. Every person is something completely unique, unbreakable, and the life of every homeless person is covered with the secret of the human person. Every face hides its story.
If, however, I am trying to figure out who homeless people are in rough moves, I must first make it clear that a homeless person should not simply be without a roof over his head or without adequate housing. Homelessness is also associated with a lack of life sense, belonging, certainty, security. A homeless person is a person who, because of personal and socially conditioned causes, is deprived of many very different areas of general human needs, which negatively affects his physical, psychological, social and spiritual condition. To be a homeless person is to be free: shelter, livelihood, support, personal confirmation, and influence on society. Being without a roof over your head means the absence of a permanent place where you are dry and warm, where you feel safe, the absence of privacy. Simple survival thus becomes an all-embracing, humiliating task all the time.
When we look at Slovene homeless people and wonder how we can help them, we must not forget that homeless people are in the majority of people who once had normal connections with society. Most of them once lived in order, many had families, almost all of them were employed for at least some time.
How come they got on the road ?!
Most of them in this difficult, inconsistent state have led to unsuccessful coping with personal problems, and often their position is at least partly due to the man’s unfriendly social conditions. The long-term family problems, the consequences of various misconduct in the past, the criminal history, chronic health problems, various forms of addiction and other causes have led to serious problems with employment and housing in their lives. All these phenomena are accompanied by a permanent lack of resources for life. When a person in such a difficult situation also exhausts the support he is willing to offer home-made, the street becomes his home.
Perhaps one among you wondered why we pay so much attention to homeless people. It may even seem to them that it would be best to leave them in their own world, and I was given a few hundred tolars to give them to the life they chose. I admit that homelessness can be seen as well. It is possible to believe that homeless people are content with what they are, that they do not want a different life.
I can not accept such a view of myself. Homelessness is a problem and it’s great. The most succinct consequence of homelessness is undoubtedly the fact that people who are homeless often lose their sense of self-worth and hope for a better future. They feel cut off and alienated from the rest of society. In such a situation, they can easily create their own lives. A person must have before him the meaning to be fulfilled, and the values to be realized if he wants to live a person worthwhile. For the homeless, the longing for happiness is no less than that of us, other people. However, since their position does not allow them to realize their ideals and values, they are often left to the gonal response to life; they search for pleasures at all costs and are unintelligibly destroyed with alcoholic beverages, pills and other injurious products. All their lives tell us that they would like to be happy, but they have no power to achieve happiness.
Homeless people need help. Their misery is great and many – I personally believe that all of us – would want a different life. They can change themselves, above all, themselves. The task of those we want to help is to show them that they are worthy of love, that their life has the meaning of having hidden sources of power in them that can change the course of their lives.
The way to helping the homeless is long lasting and meaningful only if we firmly believe that every human life is infinitely valuable – no matter what it is.
Since this reflection is primarily aimed at finding the answer to the question of how the Catholic Church can help Slovene homeless people, I will in the future limit myself to the scope of the Church’s work in Slovenia in favor of people without a home. In addition, I am well aware that in addition to the Church, there are many self-sacrificing individuals and various institutions that are sincerely trying to make the homeless in Slovenia better and better.
Christians believe that every human life in God is infinitely valuable to God. There are no more important and valuable things in the world than human beings. Because of the love that God loves for every person, no matter what it is, every Christian is obliged to work to make the lives of all people as consistent with their high dignity. In particular, this means that those who believe in God and who experience his love should not remain passive when we encounter the distress of our fellowmen.
Poor, poor, sick, persecuted have always been a special place in the Church’s efforts to spread love among people. Jesus Christ himself preferred to be among the poor, healed them, strengthened them, and gave them new hope. And since his life, action and words are the most important criteria for the life of Christians, the Church can not remain untouched even today in the face of misery and distress of people. Every Christian of Christ is also called today to share with all people, and especially the poorest, their joy, hope, sadness and anxiety. Serving the poor at the beginning of the third millennium is one of the priority activities of the Church, and at the same time proof of its authenticity.
That is why Christians are also called upon to approach the homeless with the light of the gospel and to give them power to cope with life trials. Many precious forms of assistance to homeless people in Slovenia already live. After the monasteries, parish offices, in the premises of parish Caritas, homeless people have been welcome for many years. Many volunteers try to satisfy at least the most basic needs of people without home from week to week. They prepare their food, provide them with appropriate clothing and shoes, help them maintain personal hygiene, take care of their health, and organize social gatherings on holidays. All these efforts are extremely valuable for homeless people; they are also well aware of this, and they also say it gratefully on a number of occasions.
Despite these golden forms of assistance, the Church in Slovenia has not yet passed the entire path towards homeless people and homeless people. Many challenges remain ahead of us, especially when we realize that there are more and more people in Slovenia without a home. Especially when we observe various successful initiatives in other European countries, it can be said that there are still a lot of work ahead of us. We have still not been able to establish a community of homeless people in which they could live in a friendly environment, characterized by warm human relations. The help that the Church and the other homeless-looking organizations should develop as yet would have to respond in particular to the three basic needs of a homeless person: the need to regain self-esteem, the need for a safe environment and the need to return to the world of work. The response to these three basic needs also depends on the performance of the individual programs offered.
We are therefore faced with questions about how the Church in Slovenia can help homeless people, what new forms of active love for them can still come to life in it. What can the Church offer to people in this extreme form of misery? Is the gospel of Jesus Christ of God’s love and salvation relevant also to them?
At first glance, it seems that speaking about the proclamation of the gospel to the homeless, whose life is marked primarily by the questions of where to get lodging, how to get food, who will give me the clothes, shot in the empty. However, such a look is sustained only for so long as we understand the proclamation of the gospel merely as preaching about some supreme religious truths and unachievable ideals. When the Gospel is properly understood, when we accept it as the truth about God and man, it becomes a very concrete reality that changes the lives of people, including the life of the homeless.
Of course, it is extremely important that we bring the homeless liberating truth of the great love of God to each of them. It is essential that we show, above all, by the actions of love that their life, despite all difficulties, trials and falls, is a great, invaluable value. Living conditions and the way of homelessness require a special form of assistance, which, in accordance with the life and work of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, I call “proclamation without proclamation”. The experience of many devoted people shows that people who are pushed to the edge of society and suffer from multiple shortages can talk about God who loves us, especially through acts of love. Saint Karel Boromejski simply summed up this insight into the words: “If you want a hungry man to speak about Christ, you must first feed him to the hungry man.”
Therefore, the Church in Slovenia must continue to work primarily on loving services for homeless people and other people in need. So I would like to present some of the initiatives that would make sense in the future.
Let me conclude my thoughts on helping the homeless in Slovenia with some brief incentives. :
Let us be aware that we are all poor before God.
No one has the right to be happy alone.
Before you take care of yourself, take care of those who are less fortunate than you.
Every person needs to come closer with respect and in the awareness that the other is always a secret for me.
If we want to help the homeless, we must first get to know them. Then we have to live with them. Finally, we need to open the heart to them.
We need to dedicate ourselves to the man who is currently ahead of us. We can only love one person at a time.
It is better to make mistakes from kindness than miracles without it.
We must be aware that loneliness is the source of the greatest suffering, that unwantedness is the worst disease. That is why it is most important to show homeless people that they are loved.
All the misery of the homeless, not only their material poverty, but also the spiritual misery, must be solved.
We will not be happy with giving money or necessary things. That’s not enough. Homeless people need our hands to serve them and our hearts to love them.
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