Temperatures in St. Louis have been very cold during the past several days. I know folks who are active in homeless ministries, and over the years we have contributed to such ministries in the different places we lived.
Thinking about that, I remembered a location in Flagstaff, Arizona: Andy Womack's Flamingo Motel. Several churches, including the one where I served on staff in the late 80s/early 90s, had arrangements with the motel to pay for rooms for transient travelers who passed through town. It was not simply a wintertime ministry, but the cold and snowy winters in Flagstaff did make homelessness all the more dangerous.
I admit that this ministry worried me. I feared meeting strangers, knowing that I hadn't the savvy and intuition to sense whether a person was bullshitting me or was genuinely in need. The senior pastor, a more forceful and savvy person than I, enjoyed this work, and I only went to the motel a couple times. Once, though, the man I helped was someone I knew in high school! He was drifting. I seek forgiveness for the times I was a fearful host for the homeless persons passing through town.
The motel was at the intersection of old Route 66/89 and Milton Ave. in Flagstaff. It had garages next to the rooms, like some other motels of its vintage. I never saw a postcard for the place on eBay but I found a website in which the author recalled the place, where he had stayed in 1978. http://designobserver.com/feature/lost-america-the-flamingo-motor-hotel/6567 Like me, he had found few if any references to the place online---surprisingly, considering the motel's vintage sign and age---so I'm glad he posted his own recollection. The place was razed in the 1990s, a few years after we moved from Flagstaff, and when we returned for a visit in 1999, I saw that the motel had been replaced with a Barnes and Noble store.
Here is a lovely prayer for the homeless, which we can all pray and consider: http://carolpenner.typepad.com/leadinginworship/2009/11/prayer-for-homeless-people.html Consider praying for and contributing to homeless ministries as part of your own faith journey.