Interesting term, huh? It popped into my head on Thursday when I had the great opportunity to help hand out light lunches to about 600 people scattered around the central part of downtown Phoenix. Kevin Winbush, Managing Partner of Grace & Mercy Homeless Ministries, and his wife, feed 1,200 people every week with the assistance of Joe Cardinale, owner of the Cardinale Way family of dealerships in California and Arizona, and they also feed another 600 from other sources. This mission is referred to as “feeding the homeless”, but I like to think of it as loving those troubled souls that “Fell Off the Grid,” a term meaning “untraceable through normal means.” These folks used to teach children, worked as a driver for an automotive business, taught autistic children, and spoke with conviction about Christianity. They had taken the wrong turn at some point, or perhaps just ran out of “luck”, but it could have been any of us down there, hungry for fellowship and a lunchmeat sandwich.
The people we met along our journey were polite and appreciative and many were willing to share their story of how they happened to be standing on this corner, asking us for a sandwich and cold water. There was a common theme that ran through many of their stories, they had lost their resources, their support system, a house and finally their car. They could have survived barely, by hanging on by a thread, until they lost their means of transportation. That was the final blow that couldn’t be undone. Without a car, you are dependent on the bus route, that transportation “grid” that gets you close, but might leave you several miles of walking to get a basic minimum wage job.
How ironic that we are representatives of an auto dealership, who brings lunches into the heart of poverty, and yet we have no answers for getting these folks back to work. One possible idea is to determine possible low-skill jobs located near he Cass Homeless Shelter and then provide a shuttle to and from those jobs. I am sure that my naive ideas might not be practical, but maybe we should talk together and think outside of the “grid” about providing help and support for these people so they can feel proud of contributing back to their community.