Warning: Disturbing images ahead

If you’re going to read a book about homelessness, you expect a certain amount of discomfort while reading.

Like imagining the stench on a person who hasn’t showered for five weeks. Or what discarded food in a trash can might taste like. Or what you’d do if you had a gastrointestinal illness, no toilet paper and no access to a bathroom.

Mike Yankoski’s account of his life on the streets in Under the Overpass contains such images and discomfort.

What was more disturbing, though, was the way he and his traveling companion Sam Purvis were treated.

But let me back up and fill you in on the story. Yankoski chose life on the streets as a social experiment of sorts. He wanted to know what it meant to depend on God for everything, especially his daily needs, and gain insight into what homeless people in the United States face on a regular basis.

It was a bold move. And maybe foolish. Friends and family certainly thought so when he first suggested it. But Yankoski and Purvis survived five months in six cities across the country with the clothes on their back, a sleeping bag, minimal belongings in a backpack, guitars, the kindness of strangers and the grace of God.

Under the Overpass is a compelling read, a rare glance into a life few of us would choose and often ignore. It’s more than compelling, though. It’s challenging and convicting.

Back to those disturbing images. The men were chased from a church lawn the day they were hosting a breakfast. They were drooled on by a dog and then mocked by its owner. A businessman “evicted” them from Golden Gate Park because he didn’t want to have to look at them as part of the view from his apartment window. They were ignored by Christians who pledged to pray for each other.

The stories aren’t all discouraging, though. But I don’t want to spoil the story.

FAVORITES: Yankoski writes in an easy-to-read style. It’s not hard to breeze through the stories in each city. Yankoski doesn’t romanticize the journey, and he includes tips at the end of the book for how to get involved in helping the homeless. Practical application. I love it.

FAULTS: It’s not a fault exactly, but encountering the faces and experiences of homelessness, basically firsthand is overwhelming.

IN A WORD: Life-changing. (Or is that two words?) My husband was reading this book last fall when we had occasion to be in downtown Denver for a night. His attitude toward the homeless people we encountered, as well as those asking for charitable aid for organizations, was completely new to me. He engaged people in conversation, acknowledging their existence. I was uncomfortable at the time but after reading the book, I find myself changed as well. I think more about the food we discard and how easily I’ve ignored people on the street in the past. I’m eager (and admittedly nervous) to put what I’ve read into practice.

Click here to download an action plan, which gives you ideas how to help the homeless in your city or town. And check out a sample chapter from Under the Overpass here.

And if you liked this review, please take a moment to rank it on the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books site below. You could win your own copy!



One thought on “Warning: Disturbing images ahead

  1. Pingback: This book should come with a warning: Review of The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski | Living Echoes

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