Students from the Alpine Church Serve the Homeless

Saturday , November 08, 2014 - 12:00 AM

By JENNI WILLIAMS
Standard-Examiner correspondent

Thirty-eight students from Roy, West Haven, Layton, and Riverdale, accompanied by 10 of their leaders from Alpine Church, chose to spend their fall school break serving the homeless in Salt Lake City. They nicknamed their mission trip SLUMP, Salt Lake Urban Mission Trip.

“We go a lot out of the country, and do service, so we always like to do something local, because people around here need service, too,” said Brent Hinsley, missions pastor for the Alpine Church. “Every year for UEA we serve the homeless, in different locations. Other years we have been to Denver, L.A., and San Francisco and served the homeless, there, during UEA.”

During this year’s fall break service project, the youth and their leaders served a few different organizations. They did yard work for the Salvation Army; cleaned and organized at the Rescue Mission; served dinner at the Road Home, the Rescue Mission, and St. Vincent’s; served at UAID, Utah Food Bank, Homeless Youth Resource Center and Real Food Rising; and handed out hiking kits at the park.

“My favorite thing was when my group got to serve dinner to the homeless people at St. Vincent’s. We all started preparing some of the food for the next day while the workers cooked the meal for that night. After that we all got assignments. For example, some people did the dishes, some people cleaned or got coffee and talked to the homeless people, and I got to work with some of my friends and make the food tray. It was kind of overwhelming at times, but we got the hang of it. Also the workers there were all so nice to us,” said Brevin Pierce, who went on the SLUMP trip. “When we served dinner at St. Vincent’s, I liked it because I liked seeing all of the happy people that were so thankful for a meal.”

“For me, working the first night at The Rescue Mission was my favorite, serving dinner to the homeless men. I think it was my favorite because I wasn’t sure what the entire SLUMP experience was going to be like. Getting to work with those men and feed them set the tone for the entire trip,” said Austin Mariano, an 18-year-old student who went on the SLUMP trip.

While the youth were serving at the Rescue Mission, Mariano spoke with someone who really touched his life. “I got to talk to a gentleman named Eddy and his story was eye-opening and touching,” Mariano said.

“His story made me realize there was no stereotypical homeless person. There is not a single reason as to why people are on the street and I think as a society, we forget that. We group the homeless as a ‘lazy and smelly’ group of people who don’t want a good life or to pursue the American Dream. Working at The Rescue Mission and talking with Eddy radically changed my view on homeless people and the amount of hurt these people have been through. His story touched me on a Godly level and motivated me the entire trip because his story opened my eyes to some of the struggles that put people on the street,” Mariano said.

It was quite an eye-opening experience for many of them, Hinsley said.

“I learned to appreciate what I have and that I don’t need the new iPhone or the new Nike shoes. The whole trip was just eye-opening. It made me think of things I never thought of before,” Pierce said. “Also everyone thinks homeless people are scary and really mean, but we learned there is no stereotypical homeless person and most of them are nice. Another thing we learned is that one of the reasons homeless people do drugs is so that they can survive the night. It may sound weird, but for them it is much safer to stay up all night than go to sleep. So they use drugs to keep them up.”

“One of the most prominent lessons that I learned through helping with impoverished people and the homeless of Salt Lake City is that there really is no stereotypical homeless person. The homeless population isn’t out there simply because of a single reason. Everyone’s story is different,” Mariano said.

“That’s what made talking to them on a human level so meaningful and fulfilling. A lot of the time, they simply want to talk. As a society, I feel like that we seem to degrade and look down on the homeless because they don’t have anywhere they belong. Because of that, conversation with them becomes nonexistent,” said Mariano.

“The experience of talking with the homeless helped me learn that everyone’s story is different as to how they got to where they are. The homeless are people too, not just people who got lazy and decided that the street would be the easy way out. It’s not. Being homeless takes a lot of work,” Mariano said.

One of the most memorable things for Hinsley was: “We split the students into groups of five to six people, and gave each group $10. We told them to buy something at the Gateway Mall, which is expensive and nice, yet the homeless people are right there, across the street, at Pioneer Park. Each group was to buy something at the Gateway, and then walk across the street to Pioneer Park, and give it to a homeless person at the park. One group bought a backpack, other groups bought a little chair, snacks and a sleeping bag,” said Hinsley. “All the students were familiar with the Gateway, and been shopping there, but never realized that the homeless were right there, too. It was a good experience for them.”

“It felt amazing. Everyone was so nice to us. They loved to just sit and talk with us. My group met one homeless guy and he was really interested in what we thought and how we were doing. We bought this guy a blanket and a Bible and it turned out that’s exactly what he needed/wanted,” said Pierce.

The experience had a lasting impact for many of the participants.

“Connecting to the lost and homeless population of Salt Lake City has definitely left its imprint on my heart and meant a lot to me. It was my favorite loving on the people of Salt Lake City. Service work and helping others has helped humbled me and given me an amazing point of view on the world we live in today that is based upon ‘hearts of stone.’ God has softened my heart and has helped me to love service work because it’s what He would do,” Mariano said.

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