It is a long story, but as I type it appears C is barefoot, penniless and without phone or ID on the streets of Atlanta.
She was committed to an involuntary psychiatric hold last Friday to a place in south Atlanta. Once her 72 hours were up and she was "stable" she was allowed to sign herself out. The staff from the facility took her to a downtown shelter Tuesday night with the two paper sacks of belongings she had and dropped her off.
Because of a complicated history that it would not be appropriate to share here, some instability in her was triggered at the shelter. She acted out in a disruptive way and was threatened with expulsion. The last contact we had with her was when she called my friend, Gretta, who runs the group home in a panic and said, "Please come get me before I am turned out, alone, onto the streets of downtown Atlanta."
Gretta was able to compel the staff to show mercy and C spent Tuesday night at the shelter. Wednesday morning, Gretta received a call that C had been unstable and disorderly again that morning and had been escorted from the premises by police. She was not arrested, just forced to leave.
In her confused state, she left behind her two bags of clothes and her shoes. She walked away barefoot with nothing (literally) but the clothes on her back. It has been 24 hours with no word from her.
I am angry at a system that has let this young woman down and literally dropped a fragile life off in an unsafe area to fend for herself.
I fear that she is in mental crisis somewhere unable to recall our phone numbers.
I pray no one has taken advantage of her in this vulnerable state.
I hope we find her today.
I believe nothing is without hope and anything can be restored.
I have been so 'confused at' God. Not mad. Just sad. Not really doubting, but so unable to reconcile why there are lives like this precious young woman's who, like Job, are marked by so much pain--while I get to live a life of relative blessing and ease.
Every homeless person I have passed on the street this week has been a stark reminder that they, too, were once 19. Many of them had a point in their early 20s where their mental illness or addiction seemed to take over their lives and leave them wrecked and on the streets. Many of them almost certainly had families and/or friends who loved them and whose hearts were broken as it happened.
I have found that in the difficult chapters of life I can find peace without having all the answers. I have learned that trust and faith means not being dependent on the knowledge of how it is all going to turn out. I am trying to center my efforts instead on what I can learn today. I have been searching for some lesson from all this--some reminder of the Gospel and God's Grace.
Yesterday, I got a glimpse as an army of facebook friends and volunteers from various homeless and street ministries aligned to get C's picture distributed in the areas of downtown Atlanta where she may turn up. Last night I had 13 e-mail from concerned people, many of whom I have never met, who had been canvassing the streets in search of this sweet girl.
C has no family to speak of, but she literally had dozens of people working to rescue her... and she has no idea.
I thought of all the times in life when I have felt alone, forgotten and abandoned and how God was at work on my behalf--I just didn't know it. And as e-mails, texts and calls rolled in from people whose hearts are burdened for this young woman they've never met, I thought, THIS is the love of God. This is godly compassion. This is the body caring for 'the least of these.'
I am going today to look for her. I confess that it is as much for myself as it is for her. I want desperately to find her and get her the help she needs to stabilize her mental health--and I want to hug her and tell her that she was never alone or forgotten. People were burdened and searching and caring--even when she had no idea.
Every life matters--the broken, the sick, the victimized, the lost, the sad. Every. single. one.