Acton Institute Powerblog

Lessons in Human Dignity from a Homeless Man’s Makeover

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

In a new video from Dégagé Ministries, a non-profit based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Jim Wolf, a formerly homeless U.S. Army vet, receives a striking physical makeover. The video was created for a Veteran’s Day fundraising campaign designed to raise money for homeless and disadvantaged veterans.

As their web site states, “Dégagé’s goal is to assure that every man and woman who we serve knows that he/she is not alone.” Offering a host of services to 400-500 people daily, from meeting immediate needs like food and clothing to “walking alongside and affirming individuals as they navigate obstacles and work toward housing, jobs, sobriety, health, and independence,” Dégagé seeks to “reflect Christ’s love in action and word” through close community.

As Dégagé recognizes, tragic hardship can often be perpetuated and reinforced by the perceptions and reactions of others:

For those we serve at Dégagé, many of whom are homeless and low-income, the hardships can be overwhelming—loss of shelter, loss of employment, loss of a loved one, loss of control and loss of opportunity. And with these hardships, they lose much more. Many feel unworthy and hopeless, especially after society has looked down upon them or they have been rejected after repeatedly trying to move forward on their own.

The video aptly demonstrates this double-edged power of perception. That Jim felt empowered after his transformation teaches us something about the danger of whatever lies we may believe about ourselves. That we ourselves are shocked teaches us something about how distracted we can become from recognizing the basic dignity of each human person.

UntitledDégagé recognizes that “individuals gain dignity when they contribute,” and Jim’s makeover appears to have inspired him toward such a path. He has now joined Alcoholics Anonymous and has his own housing.

Each human person is beautiful and valuable and worthy — created in the image of God. Let us help others in seeing and embracing this truth, and when we encounter those in severe struggle and deep need, let us be careful not to forget it ourselves.

(HT Eric Teetsel)

PovertyCure DVD Series

PovertyCure DVD Series

Join host Michael Matheson Miller on a journey around the world to explore the foundations of human flourishing, and learn how people are moving toward partnerships and pursuing entrepreneurial solutions to poverty rooted in the creative capacity of the human person made in the image of God. Meet religious and political leaders, entrepreneurs, missionaries, and renowned development experts, and discover the powerful resources Christianity brings to the pursuit of human flourishing.

Visit the official PovertyCure website for more information.

Joseph Sunde Joseph Sunde is a writer and project coordinator for the Acton Institute, serving as editor of the Letters to the Exiles blog and content manager of the Oikonomia channel at He is the founder of Remnant Culture and was a longtime contributor to AEI's Values & Capitalism project. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Mission:Work, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.