A little manna for the homeless
You stop your car and there on the curb is a homeless guy holding a sign, searching your eyes through the windshield. Suddenly your radio needs changing or your not ringing cell phone needs answering and you are looking anywhere but at him.
Maybe you’ve read that some homeless people treat panhandling as a business, working territories and tailoring signs to say GOD BLESS for the church crowd or I NEED A BEER for the Bucs bound.
Maybe you think: Am I supporting an alcohol or drug habit? If they get enough to get by from people like me, will it keep them from finding real help? And rolling down the window means contact with the kind of person I don’t exactly talk to every day and for the love of God will this light ever change?
The sprawling, yellow brick church Bess Coleman has long attended sits on streets where The Dilemma plays out daily. And there, they may have come up with the simplest of answers.
One of Tampa’s oldest and most venerable churches, the 110 year old Hyde Park United Methodist sits between mansions and downtown high rises in what’s been called Homeless Hyde Park. While the church seats some of the city’s most powerful in its pews, up to 200 of the hungry come for breakfast on Sunday mornings, too. Coleman is in a choir that performs for them between services, and the down on their luck sing along to the older songs, The Old Rugged Cross and How Great Thou Art.
A homeless woman named Missy Sjostrom was killed one night michael kors crossing the street near this church where she was a regular. The case made headlines when a private school teen was accused of fleeing the scene. They held a memorial for Missy here, and for a homeless man named Alonzo Perkins. It was not your usual staid South Tampa affair. A guy called Copper Jesus came, and someone played the sax.
michael kors Coleman, a retired teacher, got the good idea from a church she visited in Texas. It was met with enthusiasm. In the past four months, members have sold 400 “Manna Bags” filled Ziplocs, $5 each to parishioners to carry in their cars. At first, volunteers michael kors put the bags together by assembly line, but it turned out people liked something about filling each bag themselves.
Manna food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness is in modern terms this: Pop top can of tuna with crackers, fruit cup, Slim Jim, apple juice, cereal bar, peanut butter crackers, peanuts, fork, spoon. A comprehensive pamphlet listing shelters, veterans services, job help, where to get your Social Security card. A laminated inspirational saying to fit in a man’s pocket. Maybe best of all: clean white socks. The first time Coleman gave out a bag, the woman said softly, “Socks.” Coleman asked her what else should be in there. michael kors They added a toothbrush, toothpaste, a little sunscreen.
I buy my manna test bag and it isn’t long before I see him holding up his sign near Publix. Then I see it’s not a sign at all, but a pencil sketch of a dog. I like dogs better than people. Talk about knowing your audience.
Maybe some who stand on these corners will want cash anyway. This man takes the bag from my hands, looks and gives me a ragged smile. “Thank you,” he says, stepping back as the light changes and I am gone.