Meet Loretta – 78 Years Old and Homeless – Under a Bridge.

Lorretta is 78 years old and homeless

Loretta picking up free medical supplies at the New Orleans Dream Center

78 Years Old and Homeless Mom

It has been a while since I last posted on my blog. Meeting Loretta reinvigorated me and inspired me to pick up my Mac and start typing. This past December I started serving on days the New Orleans Dream Center provides free outreach of medical, dental and veterinarian services for the needy in New Orleans. These experiences have been a blessing in a number of ways; I share them with the hopes of simply planting the seed in just one person to step out of their comfort zone, for the rewards are beyond measurable.

Upon getting involved, I knew the need was tremendous based on so many street corners in New Orleans.  Cardboard sign after cardboard sign pleading for help – every day/every week – you see them.   Yet, I had no idea how big the need was until I got under the bridge the first time.  I’ll admit, the first time I did it, I was very uncomfortable asking myself:  What the heck am I doing?  Can I really make a difference?  Is it safe to walk among their community?

Surreal at Times

For starters it’s definitely a community; an intriguing community to say the least.  After 7 months of doing this you begin to see patterns of behavior that are routine amongst the homeless as they function and migrate within the community…one that has layers of social stature just like the suburbs.  While there may be some patterns that start to reveal themselves, you truly never know whom you are going to meet and the surreal and unreal stories you will come across.   Each and every time has been different, startling in some cases.   Each time I’ve met at least one person whose life story sticks with me.

Do I enjoy walking under the bridge?  I can’t say it’s something I actually enjoy, for it is so different than my lifestyle and probably yours.  To be candid, the sights and aromas will set just about anyone back on their heals, at times.

Raw, Rugged Conversations

If you ask me if I enjoyed meeting the people, that answer is unequivocally yes.  The journeys of conversations are absolutely fascinating to me.  We have real, rugged and raw conversations.  We talk about life. Surviving. Faith. God. Hope. Despair. Dreams. Help. Care. Love. Tomorrow. Today.   For a brief moment in time, the edgy surroundings under the bridge they call home seem to evaporate.  It’s easy to get lost in the conversations.

During this visit, Loretta is the one who grabbed my attention.  She is 78 years old and homeless living under the bridge we just finished walking.   She had come by the medical outreach table for free care, and somehow she was directed to me regarding housing opportunities.  Loretta fascinated me from the moment I met her, and I said to myself, wow, that could be my mom.

Lorretta and ewell smith - she is 78 years old and homelessNot that she resembled my mom.  But the fact some of her mannerisms were similar and  she was close to the same age of my mom, just a little older at age 78.  Her amazing spirit is what really floored me.  It was simply a matter of fact when she said she lived in the better neighborhood near Home Depot, under the bridge – in a tent – with her dog.  She also let me know she was working towards getting permanent housing and knew God would provide.  Even though her social security only brings in $447 a month.  Even though she supplements her income picking up and recycling cans – not panhandling.  She was confident of upcoming provision.  She was grateful for the day.  Not worried for tomorrow.

Sincere Smith…at Peace

What really got me was her smile.  Ever smiling.  I let her know her spirit inspired me, and she responded bluntly, “Those people that sit around and groan and gripe all day just don’t know God.”   She felt protected in a world where there is little protection.I think of Loretta as I type this right now from my couch, in my home with my wife nearby in the other room.  I pray for Loretta’s safety. And I pray her housing comes through quickly.   There is truly hope for those who want to be helped and simply need a hand up.  Loretta was one of those folks as she works towards resolving her temporary situation.

Each visit is special.  And there are success stories.  Some of the needs are so basic that once that often, incredibly basic need is met, it’s a tipping point to a better life for those in need.

You – the Blessing?

Diane Amos of the New Orleans Dream Center shares her stories of hope and encouragement

Diane Amos with the New Orleans Dream Center preps volunteers for the Saturday outreach

Mrs. Diane Amos who directs the New Orleans Dream Center opens up the start of each outreach saying,  “You all, the volunteers, will be blessed for your service more than those you seek to serve.”  She has said that each and every time. She has been right each and every time.  Loretta was a blessing – her big smile put a smile on all of our faces that day.

If you would like to learn more about the New Orleans Dream Center and their efforts, please click here.  The next opportunity to volunteer is Saturday July 12th.  If this story strikes a chord with you and you want to learn more about the outreach, don’t hesitate to contact me. 


PS  My hope is this blog post gets the attention of one person to take action.  Is it you?

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