Standing With The Homeless On The Frontlines of Covid-19

Mother Teresa once said, “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.  It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”

Last year, there was a staggering 39 percent increase in the number of homeless people who died in New York City.  From July 2018 to June 2019, over 400 people living on the streets passed away. In the current pandemic, that will pale in comparison for people living on the streets, unless we mobilize and take action now.

Serving hot meals in the Bronx.

March 26, ABC News reported, “New York officials have confirmed the first homeless death from the novel coronavirus, a grim statistic that homeless advocates fear could rise in coming weeks.” 39 people from 12 different shelters in New York City have now been diagnosed with Covid-19.

I am the president and CEO of New York City Relief, a mobile outreach to people struggling with homelessness.  Since 1989, our mission has been to connect people to what they need to have a better life. In this health crisis, we have our hands full serving those most at-risk: the elderly, sickly, addicted and lonely.  They are exposed on the streets with no way to “socially distance” themselves from each other and the infected.

Before the pandemic spread across America, news stories were full of headlines about the homelessness crisis.  New York City has the largest population of people who don’t have permanent housing. Now, over 80,000 people are struggling to find a meal as homeless services are closing when the need is greatest.  The fears are legitimate and we understand workers must be protected. However, during one day of outreach alone last week, we served 800 meals in 3 hours–a new record for our organization.

This tells us where things are headed.

Our staff and volunteers are stepping up to the frontlines during this crisis to help those who cannot help themselves.  Many are putting their health at risk for the sake of strangers who they consider to be their brothers and sisters. They are also potentially putting their families into harm’s way through secondary exposure.  In other words, it’s getting real.  

Now is the time for all New Yorkers to support community-service organizations like New York City Relief that are fighting for our homeless neighbors right outside our doors.  We need extra funds for safety supplies such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and forehead thermometers. I am calling on Americans to rise up, as we did after 9/11.  It’s simple: give so that others can live.

The city, state and federal government can only do so much.  It’s time for us all to sacrifice for the sake of the other. When preparing his country to face war, Winston Churchill famously said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”  It will take spine and grit for us to fight this war against the spread of Covid-19. 

If you are on the fence about helping, maybe this will bring things into focus: 

Helping the homeless helps everyone. 

Flattening the curve for our neighbors on the streets flattens the curve for all of us.

During my 17 year career serving friends challenged with homelessness, I have officiated at funerals for those who died alone on the streets. 

Flattening the curve for our neighbors on the streets flattens the curve for all of us.

If compassionate people step up to do what they can, many of these tragedies can be averted.  We have the power to effect change and protect those in danger. 

Now is the time to act. 

Courage.  We are all in this together.

PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN. EVERY GIFT COUNTS. To make a donation to support our efforts on the streets, click this link.

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Maximum Horsepower by Juan Galloway

Imagine mounting a horse in the dark in the wee hours of the morning in order to ride hundreds of miles through the country to meet with a tiny congregation waiting for you to arrive, to bring them a message of hope and truth. Then imagine after ministering to the group, getting back on that same horse and pushing on to the next town where yet another group is waiting for you.

Wikipedia describes circuit rider preachers this way:

“They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what could fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, they preached every day at any place available (peoples’ cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later even basements and street corners).

“Many circuits were so large that it would take 5 to 6 weeks to cover them. The ministerial activity of the circuit riders boosted Methodism into the largest Protestant denomination at the time. In 1784, there were 14,986 members and 83 traveling preachers. By 1839, the denomination had grown to 749,216 members served by 3,557 traveling preachers and 5,856 local preachers.”

My great-grandfather, O.L. Galloway (short for Obe Lee) was a circuit rider preacher for some time in the state of Oklahoma where I grew up. My great-great-grandfather, Walter Klopfenstein, was also a circuit riding preacher in Oklahoma. Both of them traveled to minister to rural families who were very poor. The tiny congregations would donate clothing in the “missionary barrel” to help clothe and support these country preachers.

Little did these men know the heritage that they would pass down to their families. Their grandson and my father, Richard Galloway founded The Relief Bus 21 years ago. This missionary organization, where I serve as Executive Director, is a modern-day version of the circuit rider that brings hope and help to wherever it’s needed.

Each week The Relief Bus travels into the poorest neighborhoods in New York City and New Jersey. (10 outreach locations a week!) The buses bring not only food, clothing and resources to the urban wilderness, but spiritual care as well.

We know that people in dire straits don’t just need a handout, they need a friend as well. As homeless people struggle to get back on their feet, they need someone to give them encouragement and inspiration.

The Relief Bus doesn’t have a big cross painted on it, and there is no billboard telling people to turn to Jesus, but make no mistake, it is a spiritual sanctuary. In the month of July, 2010 the staff of The Relief Bus recorded 47 decisions for Christ. The average church in America records three conversions a year.

These buses distributed 189 Bibles and prayed for 903 people that same month. How many churches are able to make that kind of impact in just one month? The truth is, The Relief Bus is just a big metal horse for people to ride into the city and bring a message of hope. It’s a way for church folks to get outside of the four walls and accomplish their mission.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is a still a need for modern-day circuit riders, mobile outreaches that will travel to those who are in desperate need of life and freedom.

So what are you waiting for? Jump on this horse and hold on tight because it’s a wild ride. Volunteer on The Relief Bus as an individual or come with a group. Just email us at Yeeha!

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Welcome To My Brain!

I am so glad you came to visit my new blog!

For years I have been writing articles, songs and a few books. This will be a place that I will be sharing my latest and greatest writings for free. I hope you enjoy it and I invite you to PLEASE SUBSCRIBE! Do it now!

This is a great forum for you to respond yourself and write down your thoughts and feelings as well on whatever subject matter I happen to be tackling. I value your input and feedback, even if we agree to disagree.

On the sidebar you will see lots of other ways to connect with me, my family, and The Relief Bus outreach. Check out some of my music and download it for free. Enjoy the videos of me speaking at various churches and events, but be careful, I can get kind of long-winded!

It’s all good fun and I’m glad to have you along for the ride.


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