Homeless Man in my Dumpster

There is a homeless man living in my dumpster.

It isn’t really my dumpster. It belongs to my boss and sits in our office parking lot. Nevertheless, for the past week, a man has been living in that dumpster.

You hear about that kind of thing often enough-homeless people on the street, people living, literally, in garbage.

It is cold out. Really truly cold-mid teens (Fahrenheit) and a brisk wind has been blowing all week with intermittent bits of Christmas snow.

If I was living in an episode of a one hour t.v. drama, I would invite the man home, give him a hot shower and warm meal and he would be all better by the time the credits rolled. Funny thing though about real life-it doesn’t work that way. In real life, you can actually feel how cold it is standing by that dumpster. And I can hear him moving about in there when I walk past-it isn’t a safe picture behind a screen. It is real.

My office is right next to the largest homeless shelter in the city. And yet this man has chosen the dumpster. The shelter will let in anyone who is not visibly intoxicated or noticeably under the influence of drugs. And because the great majority of homeless persons are mentally ill, the 50 yards between that dumpster and the warm shelter might be an incomprehensible distance. I don’t know.

I just. don’t. know.

When I was a little girl, I thought my daddy knew everything there was to know. No one had a better daddy. In my mind, he had all the answers, could solve all the puzzles, understood all the explanations. I distinctly remember times when growing up he would say to me, “I just don’t know, Erin. I don’t have all the answers.” I actually got this response a lot-it had to be drilled into me that he truly didn’t have all the answers. I was not quick to accept.

I now know that I was looking to the wrong father when searching for ALL the answers. My heavenly father knows. He knows everything about that man in the dumpster. Funny thing is that I can ask him WHY all day long and rarely, to be honest with you, do I hear him answer me.

Scripture tells us that we aren’t meant to understand-that God’s ways are not our ways and that we aren’t meant to saddle ourselves with the heavy yoke of the unknown. And you know what? That is hard! I just want one of my daddies to explain to me: death, cancer, drugs, the lost. Because today it is Christmas-time and it is frigid cold and I hear a human being rolling around on top of discarded papers and food remnants every time I enter or leave my building. I want to know where his parents are; where are his friends? Where are you, Lord?

As I walk by the dumpster, my unborn son kicks from within and I am sure that God knitted together the very being of the homeless man as He is knitting together my precious son. Do I understand the suffering that created the chasm between these two children of God? No. And I have been wrestling with this all week.

Then, last night on my drive home from work, I heard Him answer. Not in the way I might have chosen and I sure wish I could have climbed in his lap and hugged him close the way I can with my daddy here on earth-you know, to ask follow-up questions and prod for an explanation that makes sense to me, here and now, with my incomplete understanding.

And yet, there He spoke. In the words of a song that He inspired, in the words of a song He knew I would hear before the musician recorded one note on paper: some say there is no hope at all but His love is strong. In a world that would drown out His sound of hope, it will be the voice that leads us home.

Did you catch that?


On and On, by Chase:

(click above to listen to the video on Youtube)

Some say we need a miracle

Some say there is no hope at all

But I know your love is strong, it goes on and on and on and on

Rise up when it gets us down

It’ll be the voice in a blaring crowd

Because we know your love will lead us home

It goes on and on and on and on

* * * * *

Walk in hope and wear your faith like a shield, friends. Some say there is no hope at all, but we know better.

His love will lead us home.


  1. Surely you could offer the man a warm meal, though. It’s Christmas after all.

  2. My heart is breaking Erin, and that’s exactly what our Lord desires.. that we weep for the things that make Him weep.

    May all one day walk in the hope we have.

    Beautiful post, thank you!

  3. It is a testament that our heart is soft to those He loves that we can weep for the homeless, the needy. I pray that He will keep me tender to those He loves.

  4. You are an amazing and sweet child of our Lord… he hears, He sees, He knows our hearts are hurting for this man and many others. Thanks so much for sharing your words and your heart at such a time of the year where are hearts are vulnerable and are eyes are teary… Pray, pray, pray for our world… it’s cold out there without HIM. Merry Christmas to you and your family!


  5. as a guy who works at a homeless shelter, it still breaks my heart when i see people who refuse to take the help we offer. Keep listening as to what the Lord desires to do in you, HIS temple

  6. Sweet and thoughtful post, dear Erin. I too, have these thoughts, sometimes it’s hard not to feel helpless.
    I love your new holiday header, by the way! 😉

  7. Just beautiful post…just beautiful! And yes…I’m sure he would love a meal…but then again I read somewhere {true story I believe} that someone wrote about that sometimes some people are too proud to accept a meal from someone while others are grateful.

  8. when God says His ways are not our ways, He meant it…even though it’s hard to accept. i’m glad your heart is tender and i’m sure you prayed and will continue to pray for the dumpster dweller.

  9. Beautiful. Moving. You’re right…this isn’t home.

    Praying for that sweet man right now.

    Merry Christmas….

  10. I’m so touched by your post. You have a sweet spirit and your prayers for this man and others in need are the most valuable gift and you are giving them!

  11. Praying is nice but what would Jesus do in this case? He would have left a meal, or a cup of coffee, or a blanket or even more. Praying is good but we are God’s hands on earth.

  12. Erin, I wonder this all the time too. Raleigh is the BIGGEST supporter for the homeless. You never get turned out of the shelter when it is below a certain degree. Downtown there are food pantries with more food than you could ever eat..yet you still see people on the side of the road saying their hungry. Your post hit a nerve..made me cry. I love you. Gosh, do I ever love you.

  13. This has moved me, Erin. My heart aches for that man and his past, present and future. My prayers are with him that he may find warmth somewhere this Christmas season. Thank you for sharing. I love you, girl.

  14. I think…you should give the man a bible. It all starts there. It just seems like the perfect opportunity to spread the word without saying a word. Maybe stick a Mcdonalds gift card in the pages.

    Smile. Don’t speak…and walk away knowing you have made God happy.

  15. This is indeed a very touching post. His situation is sad for sure, and I’m torn about what I’d really like to say. I don’t want to offend anyone with my words, but the whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking about the passage in the bible that speaks of entertaining angels unknowingly. (Please go read my post about Christmastime and being tested by God and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.)

    I live in a very large town, where the lines to get into the homeless shelters are around the corner and down the street every evening. It was so sad to see every day that I had to change my route to avoid seeing it anymore. Yes, I said I chose avoidance. God should have hung his head in shame with me. I don’t do that anymore. Now I drive past and say a prayer for unexpected blessings on each person in line and inside.

    It is hard to know how to react in these situations. A part of you says to help however you can, and the other part worries that if you do, that person may become dependant on you or you may feel an obligation to care for someone you only meant to help once. More often than not, we pass these people up hoping or thinking that someone will make provision for them.

    The saddest part of all is that so many people think that the homeless are somehow less intelligent than we are, or that it’s their own fault they’re in that position. We had a reporter that posed as a homeless person and spent an entire week living among them and asking questions and listening to their stories. Most of the people he talked to had been respected in their professions at one time in their life, and hard times fell on them forcing them to become penniless with no where to turn. People whose families had tired of housing them, again assuming someone would take them in and care for them and they wouldn’t have to do it anymore. He traced some of their families and discovered that the ones who had lost their wits became that way only after they had fallen into the lifestyle of being homeless. They didn’t become homeless because they were mentally ill. Granted, that does happen. It made me, and a whole town I suspect, rethink they way they perceive these people.

    I think of how easy it could be for someone that you know even now to end up this way. How many people do you know that have lost their jobs? How many that have lost their homes? Just think, if they had no family to turn to how quickly it could happen to them. Then they wouldn’t be ‘the homeless’, they would be your ‘friends going through a rough time’, and you most likely would pray for them, right? I hope that statement alone makes you think a little deeper about how the homeless get to where they are.

    I’m so sorry to have written so much, but my fingers just won’t stop. I’ll end now without even proofreading what I wrote, because I know that whatever I said, I was compelled to do so.

    A prayer and a kind word can mean so much to another person. Does it really matter if they are your best friend or a struggling vagrant? Don’t both of them deserve the same blessings from the same God?

  16. God was calling on you, but not many respond, due to one type of fear or other. The call of you and others that saw this man living in the dumpster was a call to see who would be willing to stretch out their hands to help him, one of God’s lost children. Now, one can ask themselves, did I do the right thing? Alphra omega @ facebook

  17. i am reading anything i can about the homeless because i just found out that a good friend of mind has been living on the streets for two years. She has had a sad live, but when we were kids in high school she had it all. I looking for help, for someone to tell me how to help a friend who has now pick up a man who has protected her out there on the streets.. so i cannot just go get her.. there is someone else that is important to her too

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