My thanks to Deborah Barnes for her article on the passing of Raymond Naranjo [7/8/2010, Independent.com/“Raymond Naranjo in Memoriam: Kind, Homeless Friend”]. Her article is a reminder that the homeless have faces, families, and stories. So many times our friends on the street are described as bums, alcoholics, addicts, lazy, etc. when in reality, they are human beings just like us, many who for whatever reason ended up on the streets, not because they wanted to be there but because of a tragedy in their lives—mental illness, accident, war, loss of work, family, home, and hope. Many are elderly. Many are young and have just been released from the foster care system.
Raymond was a Vietnam Vet. Unless we were there, we have no idea what he and others experienced. Obviously, he was a troubled man upon his return from the war. Somewhere along the way, he fell through the cracks and never received the help he needed to merge back into society. How sad that so many of those who fought for freedom end up like Raymond. Next time you see a homeless person, take the time to look their way and smile. To be affirmed as human beings—to be noticed—means the world to them, as they are so often invisible to passers by.
For those of you who want to see these people off our streets, I challenge you to do something tangible: volunteer, help them one by one, giving them hope. Given hope, the doors open for a new life off the streets. There are many ways to help. Contact Casa Esperanza, the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, or the Salvation Army, to name a few. I guarantee you will be more changed than those you help. Raymond—and Freedom, my precious friend—we miss you; we look forward to the day when we are all together again. Save a place for us, my friends. You will not be forgotten.—Chaplain Kathy Davis