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Embracing Seniors Living Under an Overpass

James Butts & Johnnie (Homeless Senior). Photo by Wendy Butts

By Wendy Butts
Sometimes I tend to ponder too much. Let me explain. Last week, while driving to Clark Atlanta University to visit our new sophomore partners, my husband James and I drove under an overpass where several old couches were set up near the street. I could see grocery carts partially hidden behind the cement columns supporting the highway above us. Each cart was filled with its own assortment of dirty rags and old household items. What God showed me next made a very deep impression on my heart.

Approximately two dozen homeless people were sleeping under the underpass without the benefit of safety, and under the glare of the streetlights I could see that most of those huddled on the ground were homeless seniors.
The following day, this burden in my heart had not lifted and I knew that I needed to go back to that overpass and speak with the seniors who lived there. It was my greatest desire to bring hot cups of homemade chili to distribute – but this is where my pondering became too analytical. Instead of just purchasing what I felt was needed to help these seniors, my pondering caused me to be uncertain about whether to use agency funds to help the homeless seniors curled up in a fetal position under that underpass. My pondering was somewhat justified, because it has been very challenging raising funds for Adopt-A-Grandparent seniors in this strained economy, and I have been extremely careful about managing contributions. So, I pondered for two days until finally I reasoned out loud to myself, “Wendy, these are God’s people. They are seniors and you need to help them in some small way.”
As a compromise to my pondering, I armed myself with $35 that I drew out of AAGP’s operating account and prayed over it. I asked God to help me do something for the homeless seniors in a meaningful way. So, with $35 in hand I purchased a large jar of instant coffee and creamer, sugar, coffee cups with lids, three large boxes of donuts, plastic zip bags, and brown lunch bags. Then, on Saturday morning, three days after we initially spotted the homeless seniors lying under the overpass, James and I stood in our kitchen preparing 24 cups of coffee and separating donuts into zip lock bags. We then headed to find the homeless seniors.
As soon as our car stopped under the overpass several older men emerged from behind the cement columns and headed straight towards our car. I immediately jumped out and began offering coffee and donuts to three men who I soon learned were named Jeremy, Johnny, and Geno. It blessed me to see them enjoying our small gesture of love, and soon other homeless seniors joined them. What James and I thought would be a one-hour mission trip turned into three hours of pure enjoyment. One of the older seniors, Johnny, asked if we had a hat in our car because he was trying to get over a lingering cold. We didn’t have a hat with us, so we jumped in the car in search of a hat for Johnny. Geno, one of the other seniors, asked if we would bring him back a cola to enjoy later and we were happy to meet this simple request. What can I say? We had a wonderful day and I am so happy that my pondering did not cancel out my desire to take Adopt-A-Grandparent to the streets in support of those seniors who lived with almost nothing.
After ministering to the men for a little while, we learned that a local shelter comes to pick them up twice a week so they can bathe and partake in a hot meal. Of course, those living under the overpass could stay at the shelter, but Johnny shared that due to shelters being extremely overcrowded, many homeless people believe being outdoors is a safer way to live. Before leaving, Johnny shyly asked if we would consider bringing blankets back to his friends if we ever came again. I told him that I would do my best to make an appeal to anyone willing to partner with me to help homeless seniors in this small but meaningful way.
You will be happy to know that I no longer ponder if I did the right thing using $35 of agency funds to help those wonderful seniors.
However, I now ponder about how to raise extra funds to continue taking Adopt-A-Grandparent to the streets to bring a hot meal, bottled water, and blankets to homeless seniors who reside under many of our overpasses. I would like you to know one final thing; just before James and I got into our car to leave, Johnny called out for us to turn around. Wearing the new baseball cap that we purchased for only $4, he smiled and said, “Thank you for our continental breakfast.”
Johnny’s gratitude speaks volumes. Adopt-A-Grandparent is a nonprofit that has supported seniors in Grant Park/South Atlanta for over 33 years. We continue to envision fragile seniors from all backgrounds attaining health, happiness, and hope through sharing Christ’s love. Your contributions in support of this effort or any of our other humanitarian senior services should be sent to Adopt-A-Grandparent, P.O. Box 17628, Atlanta, GA 30316 or submitted online at

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