Last time I rode in the back of a cop car was not a pleasant experience. I was 26 and arrested for a DUI which I was very fortunate to survive. I was so inebriated that when they took me to the station my state of delirium had me back in Viet Nam looking for VC. They had to put me in a straight jacket. Yes, you heard that right!
This past Wednesday Officer Jacob Baird of the Lawrenceville Police Department and I rode along in his cruiser (this time I was in the front seat) looking for homeless folks. It's not illegal to be homeless in Georgia, just not so camping out on private property, What we found was four folks in much different circumstances.
One man was living in his car, another in a makeshift gated encampment surrounded by trash and the stench of human waste, another in a mini-house that was actually very creative, and a woman who was wandering the streets possibly high on Meth and with some issues with mental health. I prayed with the first three men, gave them food, etc. and invited them to our event, they were all in need of showers and additional help, but the woman was another story.
She was in a state of possible psychosis, banned from her home by criminal trespassing, and though Jacob and I offered help after a long conversation, she declined. Not having any authority from further criminal intent to force her to get help we reluctantly had to let her go. Both Jacob and I were somewhat distraught, but we vowed to get her help if she crossed the line. Afterward her mom who was in another state called me in a state of panic and tears, she had gotten my number from Jacob, and her words further tweaked my emotions.
I did not sleep very well thinking about her welfare. The parable where Jesus talked about the shepherd leaving the ninety nine to go find the one came alive in my heart. That's what happens to many of us in this addiction recovery business. The next morning at 7:30 my phone rang and it was Jacob. His voice boomed, "Guess who I have with me"? He took her to the hospital for evaluation and detox where she remains at this present moment.
Two things to think about. The majority of police have a heart, they care, and they want to help not arrest unless there is someone getting hurt. They are there to uphold the law and keep the bad guys away. As this woman walked away from us we were both worried the bad guys might get her, so he was vigilant in keeping track of her whereabouts to protect her.
Secondly, we were her modern day shepherds, that's what the story was about, its there for us to know how to act with folks that are lost. Don't give up on them, track them down if necessary, sure, we can't force them to join the flock, but we can certainly use that staff to hook them back in when we have to. If we show how much we care without enabling them, there may be a chance we can bring them home.
As for those other homeless guys, we want to bring them home too, let's all celebrate when they do, just like they did in Jesus parable!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.