King's Students "Don't Walk By" the Homeless

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Manhattan, NEW YORK— King’s students constantly discuss the need to avoid talking about good ideas without acting on them. Some Kingsians recently acted on their belief in the gospel of love.

About 40 students joined a group of volunteers from the Bowery Mission and dispersed throughout upper Manhattan to talk to homeless people and coax them to come to various churches for help on Saturday, Feb. 4.

The outreach program, called “Don’t Walk By,” was created by Rescue NYC Alliance and hosted by Bethel Gospel Assembly in Harlem.  The name “Don’t Walk By” was derived from the story of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help a man that needed it, even though a rich man and a priest had passed the man by.

“I discovered the program when the Bowery contacted me about it,” Greg Pittman (’13), city engagement coordinator, said.  “King’s students established a good relationship with the Bowery when they helped it with the food drive last semester.”

This month’s outreach marks the fourth year of the annual Don’t Walk By program.  Every year the volunteers traverse 6,000 blocks to find people who appear homeless, or simply hungry, and approach them for conversation.

Each team navigated an assigned zone and asked the homeless they discovered if they wanted to go to an anchor church nearby for hot meals, clothing and medical care.  They could also receive help finding a job or overcoming an addiction.  Some of the churches provide private shelters— a welcome option for many living in government shelters where they are sometimes cramped, robbed or assaulted.

“It’s hard to spend a whole afternoon volunteering when you’re really busy,” Kara Bettis (’13) said.  “But I made a commitment, and I’m excited to help.”

Catherine Ratcliffe (’14) also participated, even with six classes-worth of homework looming over her.

“Thatcher is very involved in city engagement,” Ratcliffe, helmsman for the House of Thatcher, said.  “I came because my House planned to come, but I also came because I have a heart for the homeless.”

Ratcliffe worked with the homeless in Dallas, her hometown.  Her team leader John Jenkins praised her for the sincere love and concern she showed those they encountered in the streets of Manhattan.

Volunteers were encouraged to enjoy conversations with the people they met.  They asked for their names and listened to their stories of alcoholism, difficult former landlords and physical ailments, to name a few.  Showing concern for the homeless, who are often lonely, depressed and sick, is the most important part of the job, Program Director Brian Jacobson said.

The immediate goal for each team, however, was to persuade people to ride vans to the churches for care and provisions.  Sometimes the needy eagerly accepted the invitation, while others preferred to sleep out in the cold.

“People say being homeless is hard, and it is.  In a way, though, it’s also easy," Dina Lucchesi, a volunteer from the Upper East Side, said.  "The homeless become too comfortable in their situation."

Volunteers handed information cards to people who seemed to need food and shelter but declined to go to the church.  At the end of the day, Nathan Deardorff (’15) pocketed the remaining cards.

“These will be good to give to the homeless I see on the street but don’t know how to help," Deardorff said.

The students who volunteered agreed that they often want to help the homeless they pass regularly but don’t know where to begin.  Don’t Walk By gave them the opportunity to make a dent in New York City’s pervasive homelessness problem by showing a few people God’s love in a tangible way.

Don't Walk By will occur every Saturday in February, and several King's students plan to continue participating. For more information on how to join, contact your House's city engagement coordinator.

Campus, CityCelina Durgin