A Different View of the City
Today was a very eventful day for our crew in Denver. We moved out of the retreat center that we have stayed at the last few nights and into the Christ in the City missionary house. Not only that, but we got to meet the missionaries that we will be working with for the rest of the week! They were stuck outside of Denver in a snowstorm until this morning. When we met up with the missionaries, we got the chance to do a “street walk”, led by those that serve the homeless on the streets.
There were a number of things that stuck out to me on the walk. First, we saw Denver through a completely new perspective, thanks to our tour guides. On our first morning in town, Nicole and I got up early before mass and ran into the heart of downtown by the capitol building. Today, we visited it with one of the missionaries that spends his days in that park outside, ministering to the homeless and trying to combat the constant struggle against drugs on the streets. Next, we went to the 16th street mall, where just two days ago we got a chance to go shopping and embrace our tourist within. However, the commercial atmosphere and excessive consumer products seemed so much less impressive when we learned that this area of Denver is the center for most of the homeless youth to hang out.
The final thing that struck me today was our experience walking along the river after the mall. The river is where most of the homeless stay at night, due to the recent laws passed against setting up camp on the streets. We saw signs of homeless living tucked behind grates under bridges, we saw the attempts of the city to drive the homeless out by cementing down rocks where they would typically look to sleep, and we saw the dark recesses of the city where they go to “get away” and to use drugs. This included a journey into a drain tunnel from under the city, where we witnessed needles, empty balloons of heroin, and abandoned clothes. This struck me in so many ways. If this damp and dark tunnel is a haven for the homeless to live without shame of their addictions and struggles, then how bad must the world outside of it be in their eyes to drive them in there? I got claustrophobic almost immediately and it took everything in me to avoid crying at the sight of the darkness up ahead that we trudged into. It really inspired me and excited me to begin our work tomorrow of meeting the homeless community and showing them the compassion and charity that their human dignity deserves. It was so apparent today that this void is often filled with substance abuse and unhealthy relationships in their own community. I cannot wait to see tomorrow what the amazing missionaries are doing to help fill this void with Christ’s love!