What’s your dream home? Whatever your answer a healthy, loving and safe environment is implied by home. Whether that home is a modest studio apartment in a converted hotel or a mega-mansion in Beverly Hills, without an emotional element it is merely a house, or another piece of real estate.
What makes home special is the sense of security and stability it provides. Recently, while reading about the life of Vincent Van Gogh from a spiritual perspective, I came across this statement:
“In Vincent’s mind, the Yellow House as refuge for struggling artists could be conceived as a monastery, where artists would live and work as simply as monks, with Gauguin as their abbot.
Vincent described for Bernard his plan to decorate the house ‘with a half a dozen pictures of Sunflowers, …effects like those of stained-glass windows in a Catholic church.’ (letter B15).
Early in September Theo sent three hundred francs and Vincent bought two beds, twelve chairs, a table, and a mirror. His joy is obvious.
On September 8, he wrote in high spirits: ‘…a home of my own, which frees the mind from the dismal feeling of being a homeless wanderer. That is nothing when you are an adventurer of twenty, but it is bad when you have turned thirty-five.’ (Letter 533)” (Edwards 72-73).
Wow! I love Van Gogh as an artist. I’d heard the usual explanations of his life from high school humanities class, but I never thought I’d quote him on homelessness.
But what better description is there for the value of home? Ending homelessness should be everyone’s goal. Whether through programs of housing readiness, recovery, or rapid re-housing, let’s end that “dismal feeling of being a homeless wanderer” by putting our support behind all the organizations and individuals who work tirelessly to help those in need to find hope, help and opportunity with housing.
Let’s continue to call on our elected leaders to address the need for affordable housing, education and work skills training to help stem the tide of homelessness. Let’s push to create jobs that give not just income, but a sense of self worth. Let’s value work as good and honorable again. I have been told repeatedly by those who lived on the streets they did so because they were allowed to and they saw no better option. We need to help them find a better way.
The Los Angeles Mission strongly believes in God as foundational to our service to others. But we advocate for equality in education, employment opportunities and affordable housing. We provide emergency (and other) services that we hope inspire a desire for change. There is no single way or best practice to end homelessness. Just as every one of us are different, everyone experiencing homelessness has different issues. The goal is to identify the challenges and provide loving support to overcome the “dismal wandering.”
Van Gogh’s work was despised for years as unsuitable. So too are our homeless friends and neighbors. But, in the end we see in Van Gogh’s work the sense of wonder, hope and beauty which so inspire us today. My prayer this Good Friday is that we will one day do the same for those who so greatly need to see the beauty and worth in themselves. Welcome Home.
Edwards, Cliff. The Shoes of Van Gogh. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 2004.