It’s 6:00 am and, I am arriving at Manchester’s Veterans Park. I see homeless people sprawled out all over the grass. Some are covered in blankets. Some are not. It’s hot and humid. I meet a man who is walking around the homeless people. He might be one. But, he has no backpack and looks fairly clean.
I ask him if he would like a hygiene kit. He says, ‘no.’ I ask him if the girls close to him would like one. A girl probably around 25 comes over to me and, I hand out a kit with maxi-pads in it. She asks for one for her friend and thanks me. Then, she heads quickly for the public bathroom.
I go along passing out hygiene kits. I drop them by sleeping bodies while trying to ascertain who is male and who is female. In twenty minutes time, I pass out 30 kits. As I walk along, I imagine how difficult it is for homeless women who cannot attend to their most basic hygiene needs.
I think of how good it is to help these poor souls to restore their dignity.
The City of Manchester has a horrible drug problem. Opiods and meth are ravaging the city’s youth. I walk up to four young men and a young woman. It’s obvious by their emaciated looks that they are using meth. One guy looks menacing. I have this fleeting thought that I might be heading for trouble with him. When I offer them kits they accept. I hand out one to the woman. I’m a kit short so I go back to my car and bring more. They thank me. I see a young boy sleeping by a bench. He’s about 16. I leave a kit for him. Ten feet away, I see another boy. I give him a kit. He tells me that he hasn’t washed his hair in three weeks. He asks me if I have any shampoo. I have none to give him. Keeping this ministry supplied is always a challenge.
I see a guy and a girl under a blanket. The guy is awake. I ask him if he’d like a kit and one for his female friend. He says yes and, he thanks me.
As I walk along, I see men either sleeping or passed out on cement sidewalks, some covered in vomit. The stench of vomit and beer is overwhelming. I am careful where I step. Who would want to subject themselves to this? Addiction has captured their psyches and their souls. Should we turn our backs on these people? Only those who truly understand the disease of addiction can appreciate this.
I must remind myself that this is God’s work that Shepherd’s Way is doing, that this is all being done in the name of Jesus and that these people appreciate it. They say ‘thank you’ or, ‘God Bless You.’
A man walks up to me and asks me if he can have a kit. I give one to him. I see a disabled American Veteran in a wheelchair. He has veteran’s stickers all over his chair. He smells of alcohol. I give him and his friend kits.
I’m traveling over to Victory Park now. I park my car and, I encounter about a dozen sleeping homeless people, men and women. They get kits. I see people on Elm Street and four homeless men. I stop my car and hand them kits.
It’s now seven o’clock and, I’ve had enough. I am going home. As I travel South down Elm Street, I see this fellow walking along by himself. He is filthy. It looks like he slept in a bed of charcoal. I stop and give him a kit. He immediately rips of his socks and puts on the sock that are in the kit that I give him. I’ve learned today that socks are absolutely treasured by homeless people. He says, “you are doing good work, friend. Thank you.”
It’s not about me or Shepherd’s Way doing good work. Jesus is the inspiration for this. We are his stewards. Each day I pray that he opens the doors for us to carry his work forward. This is something that we all should be doing and, even the tiniest of contributions help.
Merle Burke, President
Shepherd’s Way, Inc.