There are many terms used for the homeless. Vagrant. Bum. Hobo. Transitional. Homeless. Displaced. Some choose to be in the condition they are in. Some are victims of an unexpected circumstance. Some are permanent seeming. Some want to be temporary. There are varying degrees of hope among them all, ranging from hopelessness to new day, new hope. Guys who have been on the street for a while, whether since youth or as an adult, tend to hold younger new homeless accountable. There is generally exchange of a power struggle of sorts, its human nature and free will that does it. Younger guys don’t want to be told how to act or be. Very much like a “normal” family. Trying boundaries.
There seems to be three groups among the homeless. The first is the group that has been on the streets for a very long time and really don’t want or can’t find a way to get off of them and the vices and addictions that they may have. These people hunker down in one spot for a long term, making an area their home because they feel safe and can get by where they are. The next group are those who travel. They may be out on the streets for a long time and are looking for a place to settle or they may be new to the streets and don’t know where to go. Many travel to find warmer weather as the seasons change. It’s easier to live in a climate that doesn’t have freezing rain and snow and require you to go into a shelter that you might not trust. The third group are the ones who for whatever reason find themselves on the street when they weren’t there yesterday. This group tends to have a drive to get back off the street as quickly as possible. Get a job, live homeless, save some money, find living space. Get back to normal.
As a missionary, as a Christian, who do you choose to help? The addict who simply refuses to find a reason to change? The seasoned street traveler who would rather go from town to town than own or rent a home? The recently displaced who wants to get a home and a job as quickly as possible? Jesus tells us to help everyone. To love everyone. Unconditionally. Faith, hope, charity. The greatest of these is charity, and charity is defined as love. Love your neighbor as yourself. So who do you help? Everyone. You can’t help everyone all at once. But we are expected to reach out to each other. It doesn’t have to be a meal, there are many food programs that homeless can get to. But, if you see someone who is obviously asking please could I have a couple bucks to eat? Feed them. There was a guy who couldn’t speak English going from car window to car window at an intersection in a city I was in. He was asking for money to go buy food. There was a McDonald’s not even a block away and he was gesturing with his hand to eat and pointing at McDonalds. Before I could reach him, someone did give him some money. Guess what? He went right to McDonalds and got something to eat. I watched. Not every panhandler is looking for booze or drug money. If it doesn’t feel right to give them money, go get them the food and bring it back. Better yet, ask them to come with you and buy them the meal. How else can you help? Talk to someone. Give them some self respect, a little conversation. Humanity. And yes, Christian caring. Like it or not, if you aren’t a believer, simply being kind to someone is a Christian act. It’s an act of love. So get over it, God wants us to be good to each other. What else can you do? There is so much you can do. If you are afraid to talk to someone alone, take someone with you. Donate your time. Donate food. Donate clothes. Offer a ride. Offer shelter. It is endless what needs to be done.
And don’t think for a minute that it couldn’t be you on the other side looking for someone to give you a hand up. Love the Cross, remember Who died on it for us. Help your fellow man, it doesn’t matter which group a homeless person belongs to. They all need help in some way.