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  • Heather Luker Smith

Love Your Neighbor - Michael

Have a Heart for Michael

Here is Michael’s story, and his unique perspective on homelessness, told in his words.




Hurt – For me it was experiencing the hurt of other people. I found myself experiencing people placing stigmas about the homeless and dumping them onto me. The homeless represent everything society is hurting about. Everyone is just a moment away from becoming that reality. So really, I think, the homeless experience the displaced hurt of those who aren’t homeless. They learn to understand and cope. You only understand when you experience. It breaks you down - a gradual weathering. The image of you changes and you become less whole. Then people have an even harder time looking at you. You always feel blamed or like you’re the scapegoat. Two kinds of pain. Like you’ve done something wrong. You feel remorseful like you’ve done something wrong. The other kind is when people pour it onto you. You become a rubbish bin of other people’s stereotypes. What they are going through. We would be thankful to have what many people complain about. What I’ve experienced since last May is the disconnect. We’re not so different. Unfounded judgement – people looking at you and feeling like they have nothing in common with you. You become estranged and live in lack of hope. It’s a dull pain. You can function but it constantly draws your focus away. That hurt is what is what I experienced. All you have is your story. It’s your currency.




Help – I was not receiving any help prior to Serve City. I was very surprised to see the system didn’t provide any help since I was not a single parent, had no mental health issues, and no addiction history. I got no help from other agencies, churches, etc. Someone told me, “There’s no money to be made from you.” When in the process of falling, there’s no help to catch you. It’s Unfortunate someone has to fall to get help. She told me I could fight or spiral down. I came to find Serve City when trying to find how someone like me qualified for help. Serve City is maybe the only one in this area designed to take someone like me without the stipulations. Help without X,Y, Z. I liked that its faith based. I felt that would benefit my success.






Hope – It’s interesting. I don’t know what the future looks like when you have lost your hope. A lot of your hope goes into figuring out, How do I make the most of the day? It’s like working with sand to build a house. Because you lack the speed or propulsion that others have with a house, job, and family. It makes you look at the trajectory of the future. Since May I’ve felt like I’m trying to chase the moon on a bicycle. I found a word that resonates with me. Endurance. It’s two-fold. Has endure in it. It means to weather, be patient, stay the course. Endurance is when you are in a competition with yourself. I realize if I fail, it’s because I stopped running the race. You stop measuring things by “all I can do today”, and switch to “all I can do in this moment”. When I was out there in the tents, living in my car, even huddling in the freezing cold, I needed other people to give me hope. I couldn’t give it to myself. Poverty and homelessness are great teachers. They teach a lesson you cannot learn in college; you have to go there and enroll. If you go and can come back, it will forever change you. You will be like Serve City, able to understand. Jesus told His disciples to become poor and follow Him. It sounds crazy. If we’re all poor, we have to serve one another. You don’t have to be poor to be in poverty. Experiencing homelessness opens you up to will the good of others. As much as want to be delivered from this, it’s a refining process to do better work. I wasn’t as passionate about helping when I had choice. Now that I don’t have a choice, I want to help.





The word endurance resonates with Michael.


Have a heart for Michael, a man who understands endurance.



To give to our Love Your Neighbor campaign please click the logo to donate online. To mail donations please send to:


Serve City 622 East Ave Hamilton, Ohio 45011.


*All proceeds will go to benefits our residents.


To learn more about the steps of our Move Forward housing program click here.

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