One Woman’s Battle to Break the Cycle of Homelessness

Pat Morgan

Pat Morgan is an award-winning author, powerful speaker, and relentless advocate for homeless people with untreated severe and persistent mental illnesses. What listeners to her talks and readers of her books will get (from Pat’s website):

“The bottom line is that listeners get the truth about why some of the responses don’t work well to help prevent or end homelessness of people with severe and persistent homelessness, but house those who might well recover in a long-term, residential treatment and an alcohol/drug-free environment in which to live, with a job for those who are still able to work or do volunteer work to give back to their communities.”

Pat’s Books

Her first book, The Concrete Killing Fields: One woman’s battle to break the cycle of homelessness (2014) introduces us to Pat as a political insider, policy worker, analyst, and activist. Pat worked in D.C. with the Clinton Administration, helping to revolutionize the federal government’s response to homelessness. She learned how the federal government works to help homeless people—and how it too often doesn’t. This book also introduces us to some of the people in Memphis Pat helped for several decades, especially through the street ministry at Calvary Episcopal Church and other organizations and agencies.

In We Hardly Knew Them: How homeless, mentally ill people became collateral damage (2020) we meet more of the people she dedicated her life to helping. Again, from her website:

We Hardly Knew Them reveals the horrendous plight of homeless, mentally ill people, the cause and the reality of the criminalization of mental illness and homelessness, and the decades-old, discriminatory legislation that resulted in thousands and thousands of untreated, severely mentally ill people who become collateral damage.”

Ways to Give

I recently had a discussion with Pat about whether or not to give money to people who are begging on the street. Whenever I have some cash I give them some. It just feels like the right thing to do. But I did listen to Pat’s arguments against doing so. You can read them here, on her blog:

“Homelessness 101: To Give or Not To Give Cash to Homeless People.”

After that conversation I decided to put together some snack bags and keep them in my car to give out when asked. This first batch includes ready-to-mix tuna salad kits, protein bars, peanut butter nabs, and juice boxes. I just put them together yesterday, so I haven’t had an opportunity to share them yet. And I haven’t completely decided against giving cash. I know that I can’t “fix” the person right in front of me, with cash or food, but maybe I can help him make it through the day.

I volunteer with Room in the Inn, an organization in Memphis that works with many local churches like mine, St. John Orthodox Church in midtown Memphis, to offer shelter and meals to homeless people, especially during the cold winter months and sometimes in summer. My contribution is small, and again, I can’t change their lives, but hopefully I can bring them a bit of comfort.

I also try to find places to donate clothing that will find its way into the hands of people who really need it. And I have visited people in prison, but only a few times. My efforts are small compared with people like Pat Morgan who has dedicated her life to serving those in need. But I hope that Jesus will honor them, and say, as he said to His disciples,

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25: 35-36)

I hope I’ve inspired you to read Pat’s books. If you’ve read all the way through to the end of this post, you probably have a compassionate heart and have found ways to volunteer your time and/or money in some of these areas. Thanks for reading.