The Hamburger Guy

Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Homelessness

Eddie’s Story. He is 55 years old.

Sunday nights are a little crazy at McDonald’s downtown. I call it “organized chaos.” My phone won’t stop ringing. Somebody needs a ride or to tell me they’re running late. I don’t pick up, but they’ll get it figured out. I got to get my car fixed, and my daughter’s with me tonight. My little sidekick. It’s the first time she’s come out with me in three weeks.

It started about four years ago. God said to start investing time in my son.

I said, “How?”

God said, “Take them a hot hamburger.”

“Take who a hot hamburger?”

“The least of these.”

Two guys that walk with us come through the door. I say, “Hey, how’s it goin’ brother? We’ll get going in a minute.” We met in recovery group. As they say, where our misery used to be, our ministry is now.

I went out for a while with another street team. They gave out hygiene kits and prayer, and the guys weren’t real receptive. My son and I started giving out bottles of water and hot hamburgers. Now he comes when he can, but I’m out every Sunday night with my truck. I’ve only missed two Sundays in four years. We give out food, tents, sleeping bags. I meet people where they are and sit with them in their homes—their homes are on park benches, under bridges. It’s just about being there for them. Letting them know they’re not lost or forgotten.

The McDonald’s manager comes over and tells me she’s off for the night. I give her a hug and say, “You hanging in there?” She nods. She’s a single mom, and she struggles at times, but she helps us out with some free hamburgers or apple pies sometimes. One Christmas, we were able to bless her. We collected two or three hundred dollars just within our little group.

A few years ago, I was camping with a guy I call Deep Pockets. I told him about what we were doing and he decided to sponsor us. Seventy-five dollars a week to buy hot hamburgers. My pastor checked out what we’re doing, and now we’re under the umbrella of the church. We’re an official 501(c)3 and we can accept donations.

Another couple and their kids come in. “It’s great to see the whole family out!” I give the little girl a high-five. “She’s as out-going as her mother.” They both smile.

Everybody wants to judge people. They think homeless guys are drug addicts, alcoholics, mean, and angry. The A-number-one thing is this: They are human. They are just like you and me. God put my little heart in the very same place He puts yours. These guys are business owners, husbands. They are people in a season of life that got hard. Some people want to fix them. To that I say, “Oh yeah? You think you’re going to fix somebody?” What people don’t understand is that we are blessed by the friendships we’ve made every day. We minister at the same time we are ministered to.

My daughter is picking at her McChicken sandwich. She’s getting antsy, too. “Daddy, can I go give James a hamburger?” James is sitting in a corner booth with his book bag, talking to the family.

“Sure, baby. Finish your sandwich. We’re going out soon.”

One night, we ran into a homeless guy who was drunk and crying because his son died and he couldn’t make it to the funeral. He didn’t want anybody to fix him. He needed someone to listen, and we were there for him. Another night we found a man with a rope tossed around the bridge ready to kill himself. And we just listened.

You’re miserable? I get it. I’ve been miserable. I made a lot of other people miserable for a long time. I’m here today because one day somebody listened to me. I want to be that person to give hope. Growing up, I never had anybody tell me about Jesus. I never had a person who spoke Life to me. I tell them this, “You can’t change five seconds ago. But you can change now, to make five seconds from now a little better.”

In four years, we got five people into homes. Imagine if each of those five people start doing what I’m doing. Imagine if even just one more guy makes it off the street.

Sometimes Sunday nights here do look like chaos. What you don’t see is all the planning, the messages and phone calls that happen throughout the week. Every Sunday, it comes together in the parking lot when we form a circle, grip hands, and turn our hearts to God. We pray that we’ll do what Jesus wants us to do tonight, that we’ll meet who Jesus wants us to meet, and that we’ll be where God wants us to be.

My mind is in a frenzy. I know it won’t stop until about ten or eleven o’clock tonight when my head hits the pillow and then the Lord will either say to me, “You done good,” or He’ll call me closer and we’ll pray.

This story originally appeared in Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Lutheran Social Services and the Office of the Mayor in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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