What Would Jesus Do: Giving Hope to the Homeless
Sherry Schiele started What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD?) in 1998. It was a question she not only pondered but also acted upon, through homeless outreach and advocacy. Today, almost 20 years after her death, Schiele’s work still continues by determined WWJD? volunteers who strive to help the homeless.
“We have a group of very caring people who want to make a difference by helping [others],” says Mike Troy, current president of WWJD?. Volunteers assist through social and community outreach, food purchasing, site coordination, communications, and giving of themselves wholeheartedly, just like Schiele once did.
The non-denominational nonprofit assists Placer County’s homeless and working poor through the distribution of food, toiletries, blankets, and clothing, among other items. Their mission is to compassionately respond to the needs of the homeless, in turn, spreading warmth and kindness throughout the region.
Through their mobile ministry, they serve around 30,000 meals a year to people in Roseville, Auburn, and Colfax and have vans that go out into the community providing coffee, oatmeal, donuts, hot chocolate, and bags of food with enough provisions for one day. They often have something for pet companions, too.
Perhaps more importantly, however, they provide friendship and a sense that all are loved and welcome. “Many of our clients have mental issues and substance [abuse] problems, but they weren’t always that way,” says Troy. “These are the people society has given up on…and we just want to help them survive.”
The idea is earnest enough, but even still, WWJD? has had some hiccups. Ordinances have forced them to limit their reach, following complaints made by residents who didn’t want to see homeless people in their neighborhoods and parks. The irony is that most people do want to help, but the close proximity of their homeless brethren is unsettling to some. Nonetheless, the organization soldiers on. “Our plans are to continue to try and survive financially and give everything we get to those we serve,” Troy says. The team has witnessed several homeless individuals gain employment and obtain transitional housing—some have even returned to volunteer with the organization—and that sense of accomplishment is shared by all involved.
Those who wish to help can do so by adopting their van for a day, which costs $130 and will feed the homeless in Roseville for one day. WWJD? is also looking to start their own signature fundraiser and is seeking interested volunteers. Currently, their funding comes from individuals—as opposed to corporate sponsors—who part with $5-$25.
So why do they do it? According to founder Schiele, “There’s never a good reason for not helping others,” and it was that looming question—“What would Jesus do?”—that guided her ministry, her principles, and her life. Today, it serves as a poignant reminder for WWJD? volunteers to serve the least among us. wwjdinc.org
by Tara Mendanha // photos by DANTE FONTANA