So I’m back to the relationships thing again. I’m just finishing a year and a half serving with Faith Family Hospitality, a local organization that supports families experiencing homelessness by finding them short term housing.
There is part of me that struggles with why an organization like this even needs to exist. My experience living in Vanuatu showed me that it is possible for societies to exist where people are taken care of without any outside intervention or external structure.
Not that there were no homeless or displaced people in Vanuatu but people almost always had someone they could call upon if they needed help in this area. The thing was there was almost always some relational connection, even if it was a distant cousin twice removed.
Another factor was the cultural definition of homelessness. There the concept would hardly even be understood, but then nor would the need for all of the things that we deem so necessary in western cultures. If you had a roof over you’re head and a mat under you, you’d be good.
The biggest thing however which I think made a difference was the culture of grace that existed there. Very few expectations were put on those who were in need. A young person could stay with a distant relative for months and be taken care of out of familial obligation, with no expectation of return.
As with any system this way of doing things was of course open to abuse, but on the whole honor was given where it was due and people would contribute whatever they could to help lessen the burden that they might otherwise present.
Even within our own cultures we are usually more ready to extend grace to those we know than to strangers, but the problem is that we so rarely live among family anymore. We have also isolated ourselves so much that a neighbor could get in to difficulty and require help and we wouldn’t even know it.
I appreciate that there are no easy answers but I think if we can find ways of helping to create grace filled connections whereby people are then able to form supportive relationships, with those to whom they would otherwise be a statistic, then we would be much closer to beginning to build sustainable solutions to many of our systemic problems.