In September 2013, Shannon James was stuck at a red light next to a panhandler. Like so many other drivers in the same situation, Shannon felt guilty, handed the man a few bucks, and then quickly rolled her window back up.
But the light refused to turn green. It just kept glaring that annoying shade of red as God nudged Shannon to roll the window back down. Begrudgingly, she relented, and when she did, she learned that this man’s name was Chris, that he hung out at Lincoln Park, and that he cared about others.
That single interaction led to a soup ministry at Lincoln Park, which in turn led to the creation of a homeless outreach nonprofit called Beacon for Him Ministries, where Chris, still homeless, continues to serve on a regular basis.
In October 2015, Beacon for Him started leasing the charming little church building at 439 Anaheim St., located between Magnolia and Cedar avenues. Today, in partnership with two start-up churches, we offer meals, food distribution, clean clothing, free laundry, a library with access to computers and a phone charging station, church services in English and Spanish, Bible study, Celebrate Recovery, assistance with accessing shelter and housing resources to those in need, and a pet sanctuary for our furry guests. We also have a backyard garden in progress, and AA meetings coming this fall.
We believe there is no single solution that can put an end to homelessness. We adhere instead to a “circles” concept that proposes people in need have a better chance of escaping a state of helplessness when they are encircled by a variety of support systems. People have a better chance of breaking free from chronic homelessness if they are connected to a mental health caseworker, a church or pastor or spiritual mentor, a life skills coach, mentors for education and job search, and an authentic friend or two or three — than if they were connected to only one of those advocates. So we work hard to collaborate with a variety of homeless outreach organizations within our community.
There are many different roles needed to create an effective circle. We at Beacon for Him believe our role is to offer hope, to show homeless and at-risk men and women that no matter how worthless or broken they feel, we find them lovable. But even more important than all of that, we are here to remind them that God finds them loveable.
We feel called to dig deeper than labels, to go beyond homeless people, street people, drug addicts, abuse victims, the mentally ill and the poor. We offer services and connections to resources, but our core mission remains focused on building relationships — because without personal connection, nothing else matters. If someone feels hopeless, or unloved, or utterly unlovable, how can they even begin to move forward?
This ministry is about shedding judgments and prejudice and allowing our hearts to open up to a group of people who are misunderstood. It’s about seeing those who are invisible. It’s about standing hip deep in the muddy waters of humility, grace and suffering, and walking side-by-side with those who often struggle to stand. It’s about falling in love with the marginalized, and offering meaningful connections.
Our vision is that every homeless and at-risk person in our community will find the kind of hope that takes root and creates change. We need resources and support to turn this vision into a reality. Visit our website to see how you can contribute financially or donate needed items or supplies.
Another way to become a part of our vision is to volunteer. Come visit our facility during our soup service (Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon), or contact us for a personal tour to see firsthand what we are all about. Discover how you can become a vital part of somebody’s life-saving circle today. Get involved. Be the change.
Theresa Santy is a volunteer with Beacon for Him.