[I] have come to understand a sad truth in regard to entering into relationship with the folks we are serving in the homeless community.  There are wonderful times of joy but there are also times of great pain.

Our friend Steven Shanahan passed away at Western Medical Center this last week.  His passing was seemingly without fanfare or without those close to him as notification of his death was received at the kitchen during the week.  My best guess is that Steven will be considered indigent by the County of Orange, he will likely be cremated and his remains will be scattered at sea in an honoring but rather anonymous way.

My desire is that Steven not remain anonymous to you.

As M. Scott Peck said, “Life Is Hard”.  We all understand that to be true.   The lives that many of our friends live is particularly so.  Medical care for homeless is unlike what most of us have come to expect.   While many of us are proactive when it comes to health and medical care, homeless folks in general are reactive.  I have witnessed wonderful and beautifully kind medical care for many of my homeless friends.  Regrettably the care though is usually received after symptoms become so acute, with little hope of correcting the root cause.

Steven Shanahan suffered additional burdens with mental health.  When he was receiving proper medication, he was a joy to sit and talk with.  Lively discussions regarding life, goals and faith were enjoyed.  Banter about this and that but it always seemed to end up with an understanding that we were both adoptive sons of The God Most High.  When Steven’s medication wasn’t right or he could not obtain his medication he fell anywhere on the spectrum from difficult to incoherent.  I recall a day not to long ago where he arrived at the kitchen having had his backpack stolen.  His medication was lost in the backpack and he had settled in that area of the spectrum we would call incoherent.  I felt powerless to help him.  I remember my best thinking was to contact the police with the hope that moving him back into that system would be cause for re-evaluation and possibly obtaining his medication once again.  I thought this as I sat next to Steven and he rocked slowly forward and back asking me,”Scott will you help me?  Scott please help me”.   We had him shower and were able to calm him a bit before he later walked off down the street.

Recently it seemed “The Cardinal” was doing much better.  He was receiving a government assistance check and had been living indoors for a period of time.  When he was at the kitchen he looked healthy and happy.  Our conversations were again meaningful and joyful.

Yes, the lives that our friends live on these streets are hard.  It sadly does not lend itself to longevity.  In this knowledge is or at least should be a renewed thought that our compassion, our desire to be in relationship should be something for today.  Tomorrow’s business will take care of itself but for today let us chose to go that extra mile and offer that simple kindness.

I understand Steven that your joy has been made complete in the loving arms of your Savior but you are loved and will be missed by many.