One of my greatest joys in working with Capitol Hill Group Ministry has undoubtedly been watching the power of transformation our Street Outreach Program has on the way our volunteers think about our homeless neighbors on the street. The saying that people receive more than they give through volunteerism holds especially true for the special groups from across the United States that have spent an afternoon providing bottled water, sandwiches, blankets, and fellowship to the chronically homeless on the streets of Capitol Hill.
Each Sunday before our Street Outreach coordinator Dan Randazzo, or myself, leads our rag-tag groups of volunteers out to serve the community, we take a few moments to cover the basics of who CHGM is, our mission, what is street outreach, and what jobs they will be doing as Street Outreach Volunteers. We then open ourselves up to any questions the volunteers have and without doubt begin to dispel the innocent ignorance and prejudices the volunteers bring with them against the homeless. Most commonly questions focus on the safety of engaging with the homeless, and if they should be worried about catching any diseases, or robbed, or swindled, or worse! It is clear to me that while they feel called to help this marginalized population, they also truthfully believe that the homeless are individuals to be feared.
Where my greatest joy comes in though, is in watching those innocent ignorance and prejudices break down through the conversations and engagements between our volunteers and homeless neighbors. While the first interactions are awkward and hesitant, they lead to ones full of joy, friendship, and fellowship. In the matter of a few hours, our volunteers become truly transformed through the opportunity being provided for them to see that the homeless are people just like themselves who are in need of friendship, laughter, conversation, dignity, and respect. While we pride ourselves on our ability to distribute countless snacks, lunches, and bottles of water, I know that the fellowship provided to the homeless and the transformation in the volunteers are truly the most valuable aspect of our Street Outreach Volunteerism. I am proud to be a part of that transformation.