This week, VJN interviewed Jenny Milhoan of Take it to the Streets. This is a ministry that looks to serve homeless men and women in the Washington D.C area by giving them care packages filled with clothes, cards and fresh baked cookies.
- Can you tell me a little about what “Take it to the Streets” is and how it originated?
Since I grew up near Washington D.C., I’d often go to the city as a kid and see homeless people. For a while I was afraid and confused what they were doing until my mom had explained that they didn’t have a house. I felt bad and wanted to help them so I would give them a dollar every time I saw a homeless person. But I soon realized that a dollar wouldn’t do a lot. I saved all my money and told my parents that I wanted to buy clothes and toiletries for the people living on the streets. From then, it grew to involving my church and school and making over 25 care packages. Now every December, we make packages filled with warm clothing, toiletries, cookies, and hand written cards and deliver them to the homeless in D.C.
- Do you have any sort of scripture that you use as your guidepost for this mission?
Matthew 25:35-40 says “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
When I first started this project, this passage was my inspiration. This parable is a constant reminder that the things we do for those in need, is ultimately being done for God’s glory.
- What sorts of things are you collecting?
I collect all types of new or gently used warm clothing and toiletries. Typically socks, underwear, thermal shirts and pants, hats, gloves, scarves, tarps, or sleeping bags. Coats and shoes that are donated are taken to a local shelter. I also collect toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, and shampoo.
- After collecting the items, what is the next step?
After everything is collected, they are separated by item and equally distributed into large bags. We try to have an equal number of items in each bag along with a handwritten Christmas card and homemade cookies.
5. Where do you take the items you collect and how do you decide whom to give them to?
Once the care packages are prepared, we head to Washington D.C. to deliver them. We typically just walk around finding homeless people on the sides of the roads and in parks. I’ve partnered with a local shelter for the past few years. There is a large group of homeless people behind the shelter where we distribute shoes, coats, and any leftover packages or snacks.
- Do you have any favorite moments with encountering homeless men and women you can share?
One year I had two friends over with me the night before to prepare the care packages. We realized that we forgot the cookies and the cards so we decided to finish them at midnight. My mom said that no one really cared about those things, they only wanted the clothes and told us that we were wasting our time. The next morning, every person opened the card before looking at the clothes. One man had lost both of his legs and was in a wheelchair. When he opened the card, he immediately began to cry and said how blessed he was because no one had ever cared about him enough to write a card.
- There is a large stigma attached to homeless people that they are dirty, addicts, and over all people to avoid. How would you respond to these comments?
Yes, some homeless people do do drugs and are alcoholics but not all of them are. Many homeless people are completely average people that just had bad circumstances. Whether it be the death of a loved one, a loss of a well-paying job, or the loss of a house, it’s not always their fault. I would challenge people to meet and get to know homeless people before judging them and assuming the reasons for their homelessness.
- When is your next “Take it to the Streets” event going to occur?
This year’s “Take it to the Streets” delivery will occur in the end of January. The exact date has not yet been decided.