This season resonates with what is perhaps the most well known story of homelessness...that of a child born in a manger who was to be the salvation for all our sins. In some ways this story glamorizes what it means to be on the streets. While Joseph and Mary were only temporarily without shelter as they traveled, I think we forget the pain, frustration and panic they must have felt. A pregnant woman traveling days upon a donkey only to have nowhere safe indoors to give birth. Finally the only protection from the elements they could find was in a feeding stall amid animals. In desperation this is where their baby was born.
When we envision the manger scene we see a clean stall with gentle docile animals watching over the infant Jesus...with a guiding star illuminating the beatific parents and their small swaddled child...and three royal kings bringing precious gifts. In my mind I see a frightened young couple, shunned time and again by the community, trying to protect their baby and stay safe.
Thankfully for most of us homelessness is an abstract;. Trying to understand, we ask ourselves, "What choices or misfortunes lead to homelessness. Why do some people actually choose homelessness when other option are available? Seeking Solace in Homeless Shelters gives us a glimpse into this descent into homelessness and how for some people a shelter or even living on the streets is actually a choice for safety.