by Pastor Steve Kimes, Anawim Christian Community, Portland, OR
Prevent Prejudice and Hatred against the Homeless
Countless times a day, homeless people are rejected, falsely accused, harassed, ticketed, and even beat up, all for the “crime” of not having a roof over their heads or of being dirty or of carrying all their possessions in a backpack. The homeless are treated as the outcast of society, as those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Yet the homeless are not the cause of the evils of our society. Nor are they necessarily the outcome of our evils. The homeless are people—people who want to live and love and hope and work, just like you do. Let us not continue to punish those who are lowly in our society, but help them.
Battle the cliches of the homeless
The homeless are “us”, not “them”—Many of the homeless are good Christians or children of important citizens. Many of our neighbors and friends have been homeless at one time or another. Homelessness is not an evil, or even necessarily a tragedy—it is a stage of life that many of us have gone through.
The homeless DO work—While most do not have jobs, they do work hard, some harder than people who have “regular jobs”. It is not easy to get up at 6am to get to dumpsters before anyone else and climb in many of them in order to get recycled cans. Other homeless volunteer at free hot meals and shelters.
Not all homeless are alcoholics—In general, about one third of the homeless have alcohol or drug abuse problems. Many more have mental health or social difficulties. Many have had tragedies that have overwhelmed them, such as a loss of a job or the suicide of a spouse or family member.
Not all homeless are criminals or violent—Most homeless abhor the crime and violence done by the few homeless who do because it gets them accused. The homeless have the same percentage of theft and violence as those who are housed.
Teach your children and the community not to hate the homeless
The majority of violent crimes against the homeless are done by middle class youth who feel that they have the right to violently fulfill the prejudices of their parents and community. If our youth and community learn that the homeless are human—people like us—then such crimes will be reduced, even eliminated.
Meet and listen to homeless people
Find out the times and locations of local free meals and sit at the table with the homeless. Find out their real motivations and hopes and desires. You may find that they do not differ that much from your own. Be patient with a homeless person’s oddness—you seem just as odd to them.
Include the homeless in social events
Invite the homeless to community and church functions. However, because many of them do not believe that they would be welcome, certain assurances must be made:
- It is not necessary to be well-dressed for the function.
- It may be necessary to provide transportation to and from the event.
- An announcement may be necessary to make sure that everyone is accepting of the homeless.
Support benevolence organizations that assist the homeless
Volunteer at a free meal, give to an organization that helps the homeless, give blankets and clothes to a shelter. Call a local church to find out where you can help the homeless. As you give and volunteer be a friend to those you are helping—seeing and meeting them— not a distant, nameless Benefactor.
Provide opportunities for the homeless
Provide what the homeless REALLY need—opportunities to shower, socks, clean clothes, an address, a chance to work for money, a chance to do volunteer work for others. Be a friend to the homeless and help them get the resources they need.
What the Bible says about our response to the poor:
- No matter how great you think you are, if you oppress the poor, God will crush you and make you die. (Psalm 82)
- Those who oppress the poor will die at God’s hand, but the righteous poor will be given the wealth of the wicked. (Psalm 37)
- The society that listens to God’s word and provides for the poor will have no poor among them. However, because of the disobedience of his people, the poor will always be among the people. (Deuteronomy 15:4-11)
- While many love the rich, even the neighbor of the poor hates them. If you hate your neighbor in need, you sin, but if you help the poor, God blesses you. (Proverbs 14:20-21)
- The Creator will punish the one who mocks the poor. (Proverbs 17:5)
- Sell what you have and give to the poor. (Luke 12:33)
- Invite the poor to your parties and events. (Luke 14:13)
- Associate with the lowly, treating them as equals, and so love your neighbor as yourself. (James 2:1-8)
- The one who is kind to the poor is giving a loan to God and God will repay in time. (Proverbs 19:17)
- Until the poor are assisted, God will not listen to our prayers. But after we do justice to the oppressed, then the Lord will answer our cries. (Isaiah 58:6-11)
- The economics of God is that those who have more than what they need give to those who have need, so that everyone’s need is met. At another time, one who was given to will give to those who gave, so all give and all receive in their need. (II Corinthians 8:12-15)
- When you give, give out of compassion and care for the other person’s need, or it does you no good. (I Corinthians 13:3)
- When you give to the poor, do it for God’s sake, not for your own benefit so others will be impressed or give you benefit for your giving. If you give to be rewarded by men, you will receive nothing from God for your work. (Matthew 6:1-3)