In 2012, I would change the names of the friends I would meet on the streets or in the shelter to honor their privacy. This was also good because two of my friends were named Josh and Joshua, so it would have been confusing to write.
“Georgia’s” real name was Joshua. As stated below, he was living in the outdoor shelter while his wife was living in the indoor shelter. I would later learn that she was receiving treatment for substance abuse and PTSD, and that Joshua could have kept his job in Georgia while his wife received treatment. However, he didn’t want to be separated by distance when she was getting help at Haven for Hope. Therefore, he decided to quit his job and support her in San Antonio until another plan could be made. He didn’t qualify to be in the indoor shelter at the time so he would sleep in Prospect’s Courtyard so he could see his wife at least once a day.
I remember the night Joshua and I got tons of food from the local gas station before it closed. We got a huge deal and ate the food before curfew, while overlooking the train tracks at the old train station. It was the first bonding moment I had with someone I met in the shelter. One I would cherish for years to come.
I have officiated a lot of marriages in the past 20 years and they have said the following vows:
“I take __________ to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith.”
All the couples seem to get really excited about the “for better” and “for richer” part of the vow. They say it with total confidence in the ceremony. Who wouldn’t? But I have never actually seen a husband live out the “for worse” or “for poorer” part of the vows like Joshua did for his wife at Haven for Hope. He taught me what it meant to honor and support a partner even when life takes a turn for the worst and even provides an easy way out.
When I started the journey in 2012, I wasn’t expecting to learn about the commitment of marriage from someone I met while on the streets but people will always surprise you if we open our eyes and see the common humanity in all people. Thank you, Joshua! Hope all is well in Seattle.
Below is the original “DEAL” post from 2012:
DEAL: Original 2012 Post
I have met a man my age at in the outdoor shelter I commonly frequent. He is a really fun guy with a kind heart and helpful personality. He is married, from Georgia, and has a wife who stays in the indoor shelter next door while they both seek aid and assistance from the program. Actually, they searched many cities across the nation and chose San Antonio based on the success of this program.
A few nights ago “Georgia” and I were hungry and we wanted to grab a bite to eat before curfew. So I told him that I would buy us some food if he walked with me to the local corner store because I had 6 dollars left for the day (and you always need to walk in pairs at night). He agreed….and said he could get me a deal on food. So I agreed.
Food can be hit or miss when you are homeless. It’s not a guarantee. You have to be real organized to make all the shelters that provide food to the needy. You need a bus pass, a ride, etc. So a good deal on food is too good to pass up.
We walked down to the local corner store and it was about to close…so he convinced the clerk to sell us all the fried food under the heat lamp for just 5 dollars. The clerk looked at his watch, looked at the dried up food, paused, and struck the deal. I started to laugh out loud. It was a lot of food.
We had a blast that night talking about life, our problems, (his past, my past) and our dreams…all while eating fried burritos, jalapenos, chicken, and fries by the train track near our shelter. It was the best meal yet…even though I might regret it later.
Luckily we made it back before our curfew. What a great night. And I have an extra dollar and a new friend.
10 Years ago, I decided to live on the streets of San Antonio during the Lenten season to learn about homelessness in San Antonio and how I could better understand the community through acts of solidarity. I was a youth pastor at Trinity Baptist Church, and at the time, the congregation was grappling how to serve the unhoused population at their newly opened TriPoint Community Center. I had very little understanding of the realities of homelessness and wanted to better understand the community before I formed any opinion of services. Little did I know how formative the 40+ days would end up being for me!
The journey was not perfect but It was a life changing event that unexpectedly changed the direction of my life, ministry, and calling. I have the privilege of now looking back on those days, the relationships formed, and lessons learned from a much different perspective. I am going to post each daily “40 Days of Haven” blog post during lent unedited with only some slight name changes for clarity and then post a current reflection. (In 2012, I was still protecting some identities to respect their own story.)
I hope you enjoy, read with lots of grace and forgiveness, and reflect with me during this Lenten Season of 2022. -gavin
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