I had to make a field visit to see a client at Pinellas Hope. She had been living in her car before someone gave her gas money to drive to Ocala to stay in a home of a friend. After months of keeping in touch with me, she admitted that she was in an abusive situation and needed to return back to Pinellas County NOW. Thankfully, a friend gave her to gas money to get back home and within days of returning, she found admittance to Pinellas Hope.
Pinellas Hope came into being after the local homeless started a tent city on the property of the Catholic Charities soup kitchen/transitional housing property. Police, Pinellas County, the City of St Petersburg, and other social agencies came together to provide food, medical care, and other social services. You might remember that tent city ended badly.
Catholic Charities took some of their property associated with a large cemetery and they started Pinellas Hope, where the homeless could have somewhere to stay and associated social services. What was supposed to last only 1 year has now been ongoing for 5 years.
I was greeted by the site of the first picture, except that it has been pretty rainy here and the ground had been muddy and was now dried. What got my attention more than what I saw of the physical location was the smell and the broken people. It took about half a day to get the smell out of my nose. The smell of washed but sweaty people and of moldy, wet stuff.
Pinellas Hope is a tent city. There are tents set up over about 5 acres of the 10-acre property. There are transitional apartments that are available for those that have income. There’s a huge dining patio covered in tables and chair with industrial fans to move the humid air. The residents are fed by donations and groups who bring in meals. People move like ants over the property.
I had to sit for about 15 minutes before I met my client. I watched as people walked with their heads downcast, staring at the ground, not talking to anyone. They scurried to their next location; some with purpose, some without. The way they held their bodies, the heads, the looks on their faces broke my heart.
God uses broken, imperfect people because I think he likes to show how people can be redeemed. Think Saul (Paul), who persecuted the new Christ-followers to death including the martyrdom of Stephen. He has a MAJOR conversion experience (Acts 9) on his way to Damascus. He then becomes one of the greatest New Testament writers and missionaries.
God took an evil, broken man and used him to propagate The Word throughout the rest of the world. He was the spiritual father to many people in the New Testament. If God can give him a second chance after he had early Christians murdered, then why can’t we give others second chances? We’ve all be the recipient of a second (or third or fourth) chance. I suggest we soften our hearts and be more forgiving to those that have hurt us or committed some trespass. Visit People of the Second Chance for ways to start. Or, even better, read the passage in Acts 9. Because, if God can forgive someone who persecuted His children, then we should be able to forgive too. Perhaps it’s us that can be used to do greater things after we’ve failed.