What do you do when you see someone holding up a sign, "Will Work for Food"? Do you roll down your window and give them money? Do you pretend you don't see them? Nobody likes to be confronted by the homeless, their needs often seem too overwhelming, but we all want to treat them fairly and justly. Here are some simple guidelines to equip you to truly help the homeless people you meet:
1. Never give cash to a homeless person. Too often, well intended gifts are converted to drugs or alcohol, even when the "hard luck" stories they tell are true. If the person is hungry, buy them a sandwich and a beverage.
2. Talk to the person with respect. Taking time to talk to a homeless person in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of civility and dignity. And besides being just neighborly, it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression and paranoia that many homeless people face.
3. Recognize that homeless people (and their problems) are not all the same. The homeless are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. The person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, someone who is lacking job skills... and the list goes on.
4. Share God's love whenever you can. If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would certainly spend time with the homeless. He would speak with them, heal them, and help them. Today, Jesus chooses to work through those who believe and follow Him.
5. Pray for the homeless. Exposure to the elements, dirt, occasional violence, and lack of purpose, all drain years from a person's life. God can use your prayers and the brutality and the futility of life on the street to bring many of the broken to Himself.
6. Take precautions for your own safety. Some of those living on the streets are criminals and fugitives running from the law. Always be prudent while talking with street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Don't take unnecessary chances.
7. Encourage the homeless to get help through the local Mission. Missions that are members of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions offer immediate food and shelter to the homelessness through their emergency shelters. Many offer long-term rehabilitation programs that deal with the root causes of homeless. Many also offer "tickets" that can be given to homeless people which can be exchanged at the Mission for a nutritious meal, safe overnight lodging, and the option of participating in a rehabilitation program.
8. Support your local Mission. Most AGRM member missions receive little or no government funding. They are supported by caring individuals, churches, businesses, and civic groups who see the value of sharing their resources with the less fortunate.
Homelessness takes a toll on our neediest citizens.