The following article was written by Father John Porter, associate priest at the Church of the Advent of Christ the King in San Francisco, California. Brother James Nathaniel, Father John and Joshua, an inquirer with SSF, were among those who attended a neighborhood outreach walk on Saturday, November 16 in downtown San Francisco where Hayes Valley neighborhood and Church of the Advent Is located. No pictures were taken of the brothers and neighbors meeting the homeless on the streets (due in part to protect privacy of those on the streets who may not want their picture taken and publicized).
Last Saturday, was a lovely foggy, misty San Francisco morning. The date for the walk about, to meet and greet unsheltered people in our neighborhood had been set by Fr Paul months ago. The time of day (9.30 AM) and the day of the week (Saturday) had been altered from the previous evening walkabouts, as our earlier parish walkabouts in the Spring and Summer, when we visited several persons as they were settling in for the night (on the sidewalks of our neighborhood), while it was still light outdoors.
This morning time allows us to meet people after they had awakened but before they had really started their days and they had set off.
Parishioners, with participation by the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association gathered in the parish garden. We divided into small groups, collected some give-aways up in the Bowersox Room for those whom we might meet while walking about.
In my group, we circumnavigated the smaller streets around the parish. There were not very many people, but we finally encountered several single individuals (in wheel chairs) and one group of three men.
All of those we met were very welcoming and seemed genuinely grateful for the contact and our interest in their well-being. They reluctantly/shyly accepted our gifts of sox and the small information card that gives information on city services for those who are unsheltered.
I am always amazed at how affected I am by this simple experience of greeting people who are enormously less advantaged than I am. Their kindness, their appreciation to have someone care about them, their willingness to engage in even brief conversations about themselves are blessings and graces God clearly gives during these visits. And it is a time when people who have chosen to spend time among us on our streets and who are without their own lodgings, can interact and perhaps even 'level the playing field' for even a few minutes.
Such visits seem to allow what is often considered to be a "disenfranchised person" to interact with equity, with a neighbor. It allows me--the neighbor--to express care for the unhoused person and to see if any of his/her needs require assistance. Then, we part ways with each other having been friends for a few minutes in what may normally seem like an unfriendly world, where normally the unhoused person is thought of as unwelcome and not much spoken to.
These walkabouts are, for me, wonderful opportunities to be an agent for kindness and care to real people in our urban environment. It is assisting the Gospel of love to dwell securely in our neighborhood, on our streets, and in people's hearts.
Father John Porter can be contacted through the Church of the Advent‘s parish website at https://www.advent-sf.org.
Brother James Nathaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org