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  • Eric Gray, Executive Director

Have you ever described someone as a homeless person? Imagine if that label defined your entire life

Calling someone a homeless person may be one of the last culturally acceptable derogatory descriptors in our society.

We don’t think twice about calling someone homeless as the primary descriptor for their entire life. Comedians still use homeless persons as their foil during standup routines. News media refers to homeless persons on a regular basis when talking about the numbers of people living on the street. Even government agencies and nonprofits such as ours often refer to someone as homeless.

My appeal to you today is to convince you that people “experience” homelessness as opposed to it being the only thing in their life that distinguishes them, such that it becomes how they are defined. Our best estimates are that around 9,000 of our neighbors will experience homelessness this year in Orlando.

This may sound like politically correct propaganda, but when you do what I do, you realize that every person experiencing homelessness is also someone else’s son or daughter, father, mother, partner, or friend. Experiencing homelessness is often the byproduct of severe trauma and mental illness coupled with a lack of family support. People don’t choose to live this way as is sometimes conveyed. More than 90% of the people experiencing homelessness in our community were born in this community, attended high school in this community, and have held jobs in this community. Many of them hold jobs now but don’t make enough to afford an apartment.

Homelessness is something people experience, but it doesn’t have to define them forever. Organizations like ours are working to help people exit homelessness. It is among the most difficult efforts in American society today, but it is a cause worth the toil. We bring people to our campuses, feed them, clothe them, and listen to them. We then work with every resource at our disposal to get them into housing, into jobs, and into healthcare.

You are part of this effort when you volunteer here, support us financially, or support any of the numerous fine institutions in our community working to lift people from the worst experience of their lives…the experience of homelessness.

During this season, a few generous supporters have banded together to encourage others to join our fight. They have collectively pledged to match dollar for dollar any contribution made between April 15 and June 1 up to $25,000 to reach a total goal of $50,000 in honor of the Christian Service Center’s 50th anniversary supporting our neighbors in need.

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