Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Deuteronomy 15:10-11
Word of Hope
Today is World Homeless Day. The first World Homeless day was October 10, 2010. Its purpose is to draw attention to the needs of homeless people and to provide opportunities for communities to get involved in responding to homelessness. I am always a little uncomfortable when approached by homeless people who are asking for money. There are so many people who suggest that you should never give money to a homeless person, because they might use it to buy alcohol or other drugs. In the past, I tried to avoid making eye contact with them. I do give money to programs that provide assistance to homeless people. But that doesn’t necessarily do anything for the people who I might run into on the street. How should I interact with them?
Well, I have learned that, just like with anyone else, when you are approached by a homeless person, you should make eye contact and smile. Homeless people tend to become more and more socially isolated. You need to treat them just like you treat anyone else. Say “Hi.” If you have the time, stop and talk with them. Use your best judgment. Maybe stop and talk when you are with someone else if you don’t feel safe doing it when you are alone. But social connection can mean a lot to a homeless person, especially one who has gradually lost contact with family and friends.
You can give something tangible, such as a blessing bag. This is a gallon zip-lock bag filled with various items such as a pair of socks, lip balm, a comb, soap, hand sanitizer, a wash cloth, sunscreen, insect repellant, and food items, such as granola bars, individual servings of applesauce or canned fruit (include a spoon), pouches of tuna, Vienna sausages, peanut butter or cheese crackers, and bottled water. Some people keep these blessing bags in their cars so that they have them at hand when they meet someone asking for a handout. These items are appreciated by anyone who does not have access to grooming items or food.
You can also visit various shelters and get some cards or brochures to give to people who may be interested in those services. You can offer to pay for a bus or train ticket, so that the person can make their way to the shelter. If you are uncomfortable handing them cash for this purpose, you can accompany them to the nearest mass transit ticket sales kiosk and purchase the ticket for them. Again, use your best judgment. But make a plan.
How are you going to reach out to homeless people? How will you show your generosity? For me, I have decided on this World Homeless Day to make more regular donations to a homeless shelter I like; one with a job training program, to have some $5 bills in my car for when I feel moved to offer money, and to make eye contact and smile at the homeless people that I encounter on a daily basis.
Gracious and loving God, help me to always be aware of my blessings and abundance. I want to become more comfortable responding to homeless people, offering them human connection, as well as basic assistance. I want to be Your hands and feet.
Cathedral of Hope Member