Day 1 - travel and get settled
Day 2 - volunteer at Salvation Army and their ARC (adult rehab center)... prayer walk with YWAM
Day 3 - poverty simulation
Day 4 - sharing on the San Fran State campus... seeing the city (read: authentic taqueria and blocks of walking)
Day 5 - breakfast, prayer, travel back
Being Homeless: For five hours I was homeless. I had nothing but an empty backpack and a water bottle. With my group I had to find lunch, get enough money to get home on the train ($10 total for my whole group... we only got $5 all day), and collect cans from trash cans. We had to talk to homeless people and dress the part. We quickly found out that while we didn't fool the homeless people for a second everyone else in downtown SF wanted nothing to do with us. And I could relate to those people who wouldn't look at us, who treated us as less then human, as not part of society. I have been there. I have been the one to avert my gaze when I realized someone was homeless because it was easier to not deal with it, with them.
A few people stuck out to me that day. People, not just a problem. Not semi-members of society but real individuals with a vast array of stories. In the soup kitchen, where we ate lunch that day, a man sat next to me in a business suit and tie. He looked like any other business man except he couldn't afford to eat. He may live in lower income housing, barely getting by on his salary. He may have to eat in a soup kitchen to make it by. That quickly debunked my idea that all homeless people choose to live that way. Another man, a former navy soldier and on parole in SF from prison, reminded me of some of the men I know from home. He was such a fatherly guy and gave me tips on being safe and taking care of myself. He was precious and my heart broke for him.
Out of that experience I realized the shame and humiliation involved in being homeless. Think about this: Most people who are homeless don't have enough money to buy a nice looking outfit or the means to take a shower in order to be presentable enough to get an interview. Then to get job with no resume and no experience is nearly impossible, especially when you have no home and it takes hours every day just to wait in line to get enough food to survive. It is a long term investment ministry and if you have a heart for these people I encourage you to go and do life with them!
The Tenderloin: Another thing we did was a prayer walk through the tenderloin district (the lower income area of SF) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). This was really heavy for me. We learned about human sex trafficking in SF, LA, and Vegas (it is a trafficking triangle). I don't know if you have ever heard about or seen "massage parlors" but apparently those are just fronts for prostitution and brothels where the girls are taken mainly from southeastern asian countries and sold into slavery here. There are over 270 of these in SF alone and a little less then 100 are confirmed places for active human slave trading on top of having enslaved sex slaves in the parlor. The part that hit me that hardest is that the average age of these girls is 13 to 14. They don't know what city they are in, they don't speak our language, and they are never allowed to leave these parlors (until they are not longer desireable at which point they are thrown out on the streets). Walking around and praying for these women was so hard. And seeing men being buzzed into these places we were praying for (they are high security) was heartbreaking. Every side of this issue needs Jesus: the people running these businesses, the men who supply the demand, and the women who are hopeless and broken in these brothels. A TON of prayer for this would be great. I am also still trying to see where I fit into this besides praying.