On the Streets

Posted Mar 15, 2010 by 15 Comments

When I started World Next Door back in January of last year, I knew it would take me to some interesting places.  I’ve lived in a Nairobi slum, hiked in the mountains of Panama, walked through the wreckage of Port-au-Prince and even experienced a Ukrainian banya.

I’ve met some fascinating people and learned a ton about the world.  These experiences have shaped who I am as a person and have totally reoriented my perspective on issues of social justice and the kingdom 0f God.

Well, now I am about to start a new experience that will undoubtedly affect me deeply.

The Plan

Starting tomorrow, I will be living on the streets of New York City for four days and four nights.  My goal is to experience, if only for a short while, what life is like for the many homeless men and women in our nation.

I will not bring any money with me.  Any food I eat will be from money I get panhandling or from visiting shelters.  I will be sleeping at least two nights with other homeless people on the streets (I have been told where to look) and will also be checking myself in to one of the many homeless shelters in Manhattan.

I have a feeling that the sight of The Relief Bus is going to be rather uplifting each day!

Each day I will be meeting up with the Relief Bus wherever it happens to be in the city and sending off short day-by-day accounts from my time on the streets.  I will include a few pictures, but I hope you understand that I will not be taking my nice camera with me this time.

A few caveats

Now, I want to make sure I clear a few things up before beginning this experience.  It would be easy to misinterpret what I am doing.  So, with that in mind, here are a few caveats…

#1 – This experience will not make me fully understand what it’s like being homeless. It just won’t.  For one thing, I know that my time on the streets will have an end. For another, I have a whole bunch of safety nets in place.

I’ll have my old cell phone in case of emergencies.  I’ll have a ton of people praying for me.  And I’ll always have the opti0n of just taking the subway back to New Jersey if I decide to give up.  Truly homeless people don’t have that choice.

A photo of me last week outside The Relief Bus.

The experience will undoubtedly open my eyes, but when I’m done there will still be so much more to learn.

#2 – I absolutely do not want to be exploitative in this. I could see how someone would look at what I’m doing and think of me as some reckless young guy out looking for adventure.  And I could see how that would appear to cheapen or degrade the experience for people who are truly suffering with homelessness.

But that is not my intention at all.  I am doing this to get a glimpse of a life that I don’t yet fully grasp and to share what I learn with you, our readers.  I will be doing this to learn and to serve… to bring awareness of the reality of life on the streets so that others (including myself) can more accurately love and care for people in that position nationwide.

#3 – I am doing this with the blessing of The Relief Bus staff. I have discussed my plan at length with them and they are aware of what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be going.  They have been extremely supportive, and many have even expressed jealousy that I get to have this learning opportunity!

So I am not going into this alone…

What I need from you

How I look right now. Hopefully a little less gentle! :)

The biggest thing I need from you right now is prayer.  There are plenty of unkn0wns heading into this and I am definitely a bit apprehensive about just what I’ll experience.  If you could remember to pray for me a few times this week, I would be very grateful.

The second thing I need from you is understanding.  I know that I won’t touch on every issue you care about here.  I may even come to some conclusions that you flat out disagree with.  But please bear with me through it all.  I am learning as I go along.

Finally, I need your attention!  For this experience to bear any fruit, I need you to stay tuned to World Next Door… to let the things I learn and experience mess you up and get you into the game.  Remember guys, I am not doing this for me.

I’ll be posting occasional updates via Twitter while I am on the streets, so feel free to follow me (www.twitter.com/barryrod) if you want to keep up with it all.

Off I go

And with that, I’ll say goodbye.  By this time tomorrow, I will be on the streets of Manhattan.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store!

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. joanna said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 4:15 pm  

    I’ll be praying for you! Be safe! (Or, should I say… Be brave!)

  2. Steve Buczkowski said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 4:52 pm  

    You’ll definitely be in our prayers Barry. I can’t wait to hear your stories, especially of the many you will encounter.

  3. Dave Rod said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 6:29 pm  

    Well. Yep…this would definitely lean in the brave direction not safe. But think how many people live this way all the time and don’t seem to have a choice.

    Anyway, praying for protection and enlightenment.

    Bear witness.

  4. KIm said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 6:29 pm  

    We are praying for you (and your mom & dad!). I am so interested to see what comes out of your experience. Be safe!

  5. Steve H. said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 7:06 pm  

    Barry, I’m anxious as well to hear about your experience. This is the one time I wish I knew how to twitter. Praying for your safety and insight.

  6. rob yonan said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 8:36 pm  

    Our attention and prayers are yours! Thanks for being creative and courageous.

  7. Lisa M said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 10:17 pm  

    Barry – Joe and I are praying. Can you be safe and brave at the same time? I think we know that answer. Happy B-day – seems like God’s leading you to continual re-birth.

  8. allie pence said... 


    March 15th, 2010 at 10:50 pm  

    Barry, where can I find a job like yours??

  9. Jim Hodapp said... 


    March 16th, 2010 at 8:55 am  

    Barry, may God go with you my friend! I am really curious to hear about your experiences in this. How did this idea come to be and why NYC?

  10. Todd D said... 


    March 16th, 2010 at 3:40 pm  

    Be safe. We will pray.

  11. Gary BraVard said... 


    March 16th, 2010 at 4:23 pm  

    Barry: Be careful and I am praying for you … Tell us all about it!!!

  12. Dana H said... 


    March 17th, 2010 at 7:17 pm  

    Wow! I’m challenged to give others a kind word and smile rather than taking the easy route of avoidance. Thanks for the reminder to keep loving!

  13. amy bell said... 


    March 17th, 2010 at 8:59 pm  

    wow. i will pray. incredible.

  14. Chuck Easton said... 


    March 19th, 2010 at 12:44 pm  

    Barry, you are blazing new territory, an adventurist who is leading us all into territory inside our own country, city and neighborhoods; encountering folks we know and yet can’t see. They are our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and in someways they are us. Thanks for showing us, us (me).

  15. Susie B, said... 


    March 22nd, 2010 at 10:21 am  

    Your stories inspire me.Your perspective is real and gut wrenching.How did we all get to a place that we can simply ignore the pain of our fellow human beings. praying for you…

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