Who is my neighbor?

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29

One of the most recognized stories to both Christians and nonbelievers is The Good Samaritan.  While religious leaders, a priest and Levite, disregarded the man’s plight, having been robbed and left for dead – “in the ditch,” not so the Samaritan, who provided us an example of how we are to respond to emergencies—serving with dignity, respect and love for all those we encounter.

“Larry” was referred to Love INC in February, 2019: “48 years old, never worked, never had a driver’s license. Lived with parents and now both are dead. He needs housing, and help with a job.”

During our original intake with “Larry”, he was in tears, struggled to share his story and, in his highly emotional, unbalanced state, was not likely employable.  We eventually learned that he had lived a sheltered existence that abruptly ended when both parents’ died in 2018. Lacking family or a support system, he was lost and alone. A Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART) staff advocate helped him navigate our transportation system. Facing eviction from his father’s trailer for not paying rent, he needed emergency help with housing, and extensive help with employment, transportation, grief counseling, behavioral health issues, health insurance issues, and more.

Since Love INC is not set up to handle emergencies like “Larry’s”, and does not distribute funds, I did my best to discourage Love INC Help Center Coordinator, Jennifer Agana from exploring help for him as there were too many complex, moving parts in his case. I was not successful. Like the priest and Levite, I refused to see in “Larry” what Jen saw. Someone “in the ditch,” lost and in need of help to transform himself; to be rescued, redeemed and restored to full participation in his community.

Fast forward: “Larry” was referred to Salvation Army’s short-term 45-day men’s residential program in May, 2019. His case manager, Thomas Eglington recalls his initial assessment of a guest “lost, alone, traumatized, unable to communicate and not employable in his current emotional state.”   Under Thomas’s loving care and concern, “Larry” has made remarkable progress.  With the Salvation Army as his “launch pad”, he found full time custodial employment at the Armature Works, walking-distance for him. He was also accepted in July to Metropolitan Ministries 16-week Culinary Arts Program.  This fulfills his vision and dream of cooking full time, having his own permanent housing and being independent.

To start his culinary program, he needed permanent housing. Case Manager Thomas referred him to Love INC’s Portico Workforce Housing Solutions (PWHS) program that bridges motivated, employed single men from the street to permanent housing in six months. After conducting his housing intake July 15thand verifying his fit with both case manager Thomas and his culinary program, he was accepted into our housing program. His assigned Love INC mentor coach will monitor his case plan.

7/17/2019 email from Thad B, PWHS coordinator:

“I met ‘Larry’, collected $400 rent payment, gave him keys and showed him around the house and his new room at MLK. He is elated, and the new world is moving a little quickly for him.  Above all else, he wants Mike to know he is fully committed, and he wants to share his gratitude with everyone.  He has made an amazing transformation so far.

With my help, he wisely decided to take his time and get all his stars in alignment before moving in, possibly as early as tomorrow but more likely on Sunday. He wants to nail down his employment schedule for the week and has a few loose ends to wrap up with Tom Eglinton at Salvation Army.

Frankly, this is a remarkable success story and testament to Tom’s skills as a caseworker.  A few months ago, ‘Larry’ would not have been qualified for PWHS, but he has truly bonded with Tom and made remarkable progress.

We will coordinate through Jen final logistics for ‘Larry’s’ relocation this weekend.  He does not have that much stuff, but could use a ride and some reassurance and encouragement.

Thanks to everyone for their help in tag teaming this one.  I am excited to see how far ‘Larry’ can go!

Best, Thad”

Our ongoing challenge: The Good Samaritan story ends with a challenge: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10: 36 – 37

Love INC advocates boldly for those He loves. If you have an interest and willingness to “go and do likewise,” we have a waiting list of single, motivated homeless men “in the ditch” in need of your mercy and help.

Blessings, peace, joy and love. md

Michael Doyle / vision carrier

Love INC of Metro Tampa

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