Street Youth Outreach

Friends in Unseen Spaces

You never know what you’re going to get when making a first contact during outreach. You might never see them again, they may yell at you, they might tell stories for hours, you might end up working with them, or they could be a dear new friend. In that unknown and unseen space is the importance of being willing to make the first contact.

About two weeks ago, I met MMJ for the first time. Admittedly, I almost walked right past him because there were no obvious indications that he is experiencing homelessness, and I wasn’t up for an awkward moment if that were the case. Before it was too late, I looked over my shoulder and felt a nudge to at least engage in conversation, regardless of where it led. The first words out of his mouth were, “I just prayed five seconds ago that someone would stop.”

MMJ had arrived to Santa Barbara that morning and had nothing to his name but a zebra Jansport backpack with a sleeping bag and the Bible inside. He is a former foster kid and now 23 years old. He’s been on and off the streets for a while, but most recently had been released from prison. This is where the Lord met him. His testimony is radical, and I’ll leave it to him to share, but this is the first time he’s been willing to be patient and fight for stable life change because he has already found freedom in Christ. 

When you have nothing, it’s overwhelming to figure out where to begin. In our first encounter, we agreed a California ID would allow him to apply and be eligible for many other services. From experience, I knew we needed to act right away. We were able to get a DMV fee waiver from AmeriCorps within minutes, and then walk to the DMV to apply for his ID. I expected there to be more hoops and requirements, but within 30 minutes he was approved and told to expect his ID at the Post Office’s general delivery within a couple weeks. What an encouragement!

MMJ doesn’t have a means of communication, but I’ve seen him nearly every day sitting on a bench on State St. praying. I’ve been able to check in, meet with him at Alameda Park, pursue housing options, get his Food Stamps card reissued, and connect him to a local church community. There is still a long journey ahead, but day by day in faith we believe all things are possible. In the brief time we’ve gotten to know MMJ, each of us on the Uffizi outreach team have been inspired by his fire and resiliency.

I am grateful for you who have chosen to partake in this story. Thank you for believing in the work and making it happen!