One of our work groups got an early start on Tuesday, waking up at 5:15 in order to head over to Charlie’s Place – an organization which works to serve the homeless population of D.C. in a variety of different ways (see Wednesday’s blog) – and then to hand sack lunches out to homeless people at a park a couple blocks away from the Pilgrimage. The other two work groups left a few hours later and set out for a morning of work at A Wider Circle. A Wider Circle was started by a man who, like us, was bringing food to the homes of families in poverty and did not find what he was expecting. Not only were they without food, but they also had no place to eat the food on because the houses were completely empty. Families were eating on sides of bathtubs because that was the only raised surface in the house. In his living room, he began this organization to take in donations and give household items to families who need them. They are now located in a giant warehouse, basically IKEA without an AC, where people can get whatever they want for their homes including beds, kitchen appliances, living room furniture, bathroom items, and linens. In addition, they provide business clothing for their clients who may be interviewing for jobs or entering the workforce. Those who want or need business clothes are allowed to take a minimum of five outfits but can take more, providing them with enough clothing to get through an entire workweek. A Wider Circle has multiple other services to help reach out to the growing population of low income families. While we were there, half of our group folded and organized linens and baby clothes in the warehouse to make them more easily accessible. Another group was downstairs in storage organizing and moving A LOT of donated mattresses so that they can be distributed more efficiently to the many clients in need of beds.
After a morning of work, we came back to the Pilgrimage where we had the opportunity to hear the life stories of two inspiring individuals. The speakers are a part of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Each of their stories was a testament to God’s goodness and faithfulness even in the hardest times. They had both been through many losses, trials, and for periods of times had both experienced homelessness. Through faith and the help of organizations in D.C., they overcame homelessness and are now leading happy lives enjoying a full time job and retirement. The insight they shared opened our eyes to the reality of poverty and what God can do with just a little faith.