Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mixed Emotions About the Homeless

This past Saturday I spent some time in Savannah's historic district both reading and relaxing. Due to my crazy work schedule I rarely get to do this. It was wonderful. Savannah boasts numerous pre-Civil War era squares that are excellent places to sit quietly. On Saturday I selected Orleans Square because of its awesome fountain (see my pic to the left).

After I had been in the square for about an hour, a man slowly entered, placed a blanket on the ground, lay down, and went to sleep. Based on his appearance I'm guessing that he is homeless. He stood in stark contrast to all the tourists and locals who walked through the square that day. Everyone ignored him as best they could. After all, he sort of messed up the photos they were trying to take of the lovely fountain. I watched the man for a while, wondering what to do. Out of respect for him, I did not take his photo while he slept. Eventually I just left the square.

I have mixed emotions when it comes to homelessness. Like any other city, Savannah has its share of homeless folks. I doubt that homelessness is as big of a national problem as liberals make it out to be. It's likely more of a problem than conservatives want to admit. Regardless, a significant number of Americans do not have homes.

On the one hand, those without homes need to take some responsibility for their actions. Just like all other citizens, they have certain rights and privileges. I have to work a lot. They need to as well. Additionally, due to our over-sized government, all sorts of social programs exist (for better or worse) to help people like these. Also, most cities provide places where the homeless can sleep and eat. Savannah has the Inner City Night Shelter.

On the flip side of this situation, we followers of Jesus need to show compassion to those with less. Even a cursory glance at Christ's teachings makes it clear that He expects us to care for the poor. Most churches in this country, especially conservatives ones, have done a poor job in following Jesus' expectations on this issue. Additionally, many homeless folks have little education and few skills. Because of this, they have no way to get a decent job. Also, a significant percentage of the homeless suffer from mental illness. This compounds their problems. My guess is that many feel as if there is simply no way out of their situation.

Making things even more complex, I've read and been told that some homeless people do not see their situation as a problem and do not want any help at all.

Just as I do not know what to do about and for the homeless in general, I did not know what to do for the man sleeping in the square. Part of me was disgusted and annoyed by his presence. Another part of me felt deep compassion for his plight. In the end I just walked back to my car and went home.

Not only do I have mixed emotions about the homeless, but I also do not know how to help them.

What about you?

4 comments:

oldtree said...

Hi. Following your blog for a while and I really appreciate your thougts and points of view, share those for most of the part. Thanks for posting your concerns about homeless. Because you reminded me my promise made few weeks ago. We were hanging out in the city center on beatufil Sunday afternoon with whole family. My 6 years old daughter spotted a lady sitting on the street. Asked me for a change to give her. Her granpda generously gave her 10 polish złoty bill (about 3 USD), which is quite a lot. Old lady was shocked, suprised and thankfull, confirmed to this little girl, she will use it for food, because she's hungry and for medicine, as she's ill. My daugther was so touched, cried to heavens as there is a lady living on the street, without anyone and she's ill and hungry. I believe this is how we should approach others - no reasoning we adults start right away we see homeless (I work hard, he must so as well). My promise was - we will go each month, walk down the streets and look for people we can help. No asking anything, no pushing for their live need to change - get a job, be decent - just show simple empathy and help how we can.

Best regards!

Eric said...

oldtree,

Thank you for commenting on my blog. I believe you did the correct thing. When prompted by the Holy Spirit to give someone else help, we must do so.

Homelessness is a complicated situation. As individuals we will never be able to solve a problem of this magnitude. However, we can help meet a need when we see it.

God bless.

Tim A said...

Homelessness in America is different than homeless in the rest of the world. Most poor in the world will not see the amount of money in a year the American homeless take in every month. Nothing should be assumed about any homeless person, why they are homeless, what they might do with your "help", etc. You have to get to know their story to know if there is something you can help them with. For some the best help is to confront their own foolish choices. Some would say that is judging, but it's not. God is the one who has judged sin and foolishness. We are only the messengers. The only help is to help them stop the foolishness and evil. It is not helpful to be an enabler of their foolishness and evil.

Real helping always involves far more than a hand out.

Some believers tell me we should not care what the homeless do with our gift. I can't seem to find a scripture for this. Did Jesus encounter any lazy, life squandering homeless people? I can't think of any. Are there any lazy, life squandering homeless people in the rest of the world? I don't think so.There is no "safety net" in the rest of the world. All lazy foolish people are supported by a family member or die. I grew up in the Philippines, a country where the majority are poor, yet hard working. They are probably either cured by the refusal of community to enable their foolishness, or are now dead. Some take advantage of their family the rest of their life.

The lazy foolish person will have no problem lying about his condition. How do you know what the truth is? You can't. Should we care? Yes. We must be good stewards of our generosity. Whatever we give to the lazy foolish person is less to help the hard working needy.

In my evaluation, the greatest needs are believers in other countries. The giving chapters of the Bible, 2 Cor. 8 & 9 were written to gather gifts from the Greeks to help the suffering saints in Jerusalem.

Feeling compassion for someone does not demand a handout on every occasion. Asking God for wisdom to evaluate our spiritual resources, mental resources, time resources, etc is the first place to start. Passing cash and walking away may be a work of the flesh to escape the greater call of God to contribute other resources. "The least of these my brothers" does not apply to every homeless person in America.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

I also feel as you do, but just to add a twist to the issue, a news story some time ago revealed that many choose to live as "homeless". One man interviewed was actually quite wealthy but eschewed the artificiality which wealth enabled. Most of those interviewed said they would live no other way.

Maybe we Christians could learn something about priorities?