On Saturday, Jan. 23, a team of youth and adults from Holy Cross Anglican Church in Lake Villa took the train to Chicago and set off from Union Station looking for homeless people who needed a helping hand.
For this 13th annual outreach trip, the group was armed with donations of coats, hats, ski gloves, socks, underwear, blankets, sweatpants, McDonald’s gift cards, toiletries, and hand warmers from the congregation. The group met and talked to about 50 people.
“We didn’t return home until we had distributed everything we had,” said John, “and when we ran out of things to give we emptied our pockets.”
Emily and her mother, Debby, made sack lunches for the trip.
“We made more than 75 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because everyone likes peanut butter,” Emily said. The group also brought a large box of coffee to distribute.
“It’s important for us to talk to everyone and find out their name and their story. So often people walk by the homeless, but we stop and listen,” Betsy said. “We find out that this person lost his job and house, this one is a veteran, or this one just had all his gear stolen.”
Sadly, the group does see some of the same people from year to year.
In listening to people’s stories the group sometimes discovers ways to meet an unexpected need. Annie recalled one young artist who had nothing to draw on because his notebook had gotten wet.
“We were standing right outside the Target store on Michigan Avenue,” Annie said, “so we went in and bought him a new sketch pad. He was so happy he promised us all a picture the next time we saw him.”
Not only does the group provide for physical needs, but they are also there to meet spiritual needs.
“We pray with the people who ask for prayers,” John said. “One year we prayed for a man in a wheelchair who was panhandling in the left-hand turn lane on Michigan Avenue.”
In addition, the group collects the names of everyone they meet, and the whole congregation commits to praying for them by name.
Faith, one of the youth who was a first-time helper, said, “It was so sad that so many people are homeless and living on the street, but it felt so good to be able to help them.”