“Will work for food”
“I just need change for the bus.”
“Can you help a hungry old lady out?”
“Can I bum a smoke?”
We have all experienced this at least once. Do you remember the last time you encountered a homeless person?
How did you react? Did you look away? Did you ignore them as if they were invisible? Or worse, did you say something hurtful like “…get a job.”?
It’s difficult to come face-to-face with such profound suffering and not have a strong reaction. With every homeless person you encounter, understand that there is most likely a very long and sad story. Nobody wakes up one morning and decides to be homeless. You just are.
Here are some recommendations for next time you encounter a homeless individual:
The simplest and easiest way to help the homeless is to constantly keep them in your prayers. The next time you encounter a homeless individual, pray for them, your prayers may be the only “blanket” to keep them warm.
2. Be safe.
Malnutrition, exposure to the elements, street violence, lack of medical care, and poor hygiene take their toll on homeless people. Trust your instincts and don’t take chances. If you encounter and individual you believe to be dangerous, homeless or not, please make every attempt to avoid contact. If you believe that a person is in need of immediate emergency attention, please call 911.
3. Recognize that all homeless people are not alike.
Homelessness does not discriminate. The homeless are often comprised of children, battered women, veterans, the mentally ill, and abusers of drugs & alcohol. Many are innocent victims of domestic violence.
4. Share God’s love.
“What Would Jesus Do?” If Jesus were here today, he would reach out to homeless people. Those who believe in and follow Him should do the same.
5. Be respectful.
By taking the time to be friendly, you help homeless people combat the belief that they’re disposable. Show compassion.
6. Don’t give cash.
Too often this money goes toward drugs or alcohol. If a homeless person is in need of basic necessities, refer them to the Open Door Mission or another emergency shelter in the area.
7. Point the way to the Open Door Mission.
The Open Door Mission provides emergency food and shelter at Samaritan House (210 West Main St.) and a long-term rehabilitation program at the Caring Center (156 North Plymouth Ave.).
You can also offer a homeless person an Open Door meal ticket, which you can obtain, free, from the Open Door Mission Caring Center.
8. Support the Open Door Mission.
The Open Door Mission is supported by caring individuals, churches, businesses and civic groups. Learn how you can help as a volunteer or to become a regular financial partner today.
*Reprinted with permission from Open Door Mission.