Save Our Streets kicked off their first trip to Chicago this year on Saturday, Oct. 24, continuing their ministry’s long tradition of reaching people experiencing homelessness in the city.
Save Our Streets, more commonly known as SOS, is a campus ministry that has served the homeless in the Chicagoland area for many years.
Junior Evan Sherar, the group’s leader, said SOS’s goal is to relationally engage the homeless with the gospel. He said SOS is unique compared to other campus ministries.
“Geographically, we branch out more than the other spiritual life ministries. Other ministries just do one thing [while we have multiple missions],” Sherar said.
Co-leader of SOS Shannon Steffen corroborates this and adds that SOS is one of the few ministries on campus that focuses on meeting people’s relational needs as opposed to physical.
The trips to Chicago are usually planned during the weekend, incorporating everyone’s availability before following through with the trip. Out of the 20 to 30 members, usually eight or nine of them will participate each trip. After the date is set, Sherar and Steffen grab as many Nesbit lunches as they can get their hands on to share with the people of Chicago.
They usually take the train into the city, arriving early afternoon. Sherar said for the rest of the day they usually split into smaller groups of about two to three people and walk Michigan Ave looking for people to share lunch with and talk to.
Member of SOS Angel Gaikwad said, “In high school, the Lord ignited a passion [in me] for the poor and homelessness. The more that you understand the heart of God the more his heart becomes your heart.”
Steffen echoed Gaikwad’s sentiment and said, “Each weekend is a different experience. You meet new people with their own stories.”
Meeting their spiritual and relational needs is a big goal of the SOS ministry, Sherar said. SOS members are passionate about what they do and enjoy bringing food, the gospel and a friendly face to those who need it.
Steffen shared an experience she had with a homeless man Oct. 24. “One of the guys we talked to was very happy and excited. Throughout the whole conversation he had this huge smile on his face and was very positive. It was encouraging to have someone who is down on their luck still be happy.”
She said that talking to those experiencing homelessness can be a good influence on you because their attitude encourages you to evaluate your life a bit differently.
Sherar said, “I noticed a woman who I had seen there the year before and I just happened to remember her name. When I came up to her and called her by name she was so happy. She felt important that someone had remembered her.”
Gaikwad was astounded by a man she talked to who when she asked if she could pray for him in turn prayed for her.
“He began praying over us with scripture filled [words and] Psalms. Sometimes we think we’re going in to help people but we get things out of it as well,” she said.
–Jeremy McGrath, contributing writer