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What about the begging homeless man on the corner?

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So what about the homeless man on the corner? Or the woman? Or the family?

I don’t know a single person who doesn’t grapple with what to do about that homeless begging person on the corner. Do we help? Don’t we help? How do we know?

Last week our small group discussed compassion and how do we show it, especially the begging man on the corner. It was a good discussion and prompted me to write this post. I would love to say we came to a conclusion that I could share with you that would give you some answers, just in case you were wondering.

But we didn’t.

Because there isn’t one.

Why are people homeless?

The way I see it, there are at least three reasons. There are probably more, but these are the most obvious. And I doubt anyone disagrees that homelessness is a huge problem that needs to be addressed.

Mentally ill

That is no surprise to anyone, isn’t it? Drugs and alcohol are probably the cause. But then why do people turn so easily to these addictions? And why do some people not? Mental illness is a huge problem in the United States, and we are woefully inadequate in addressing it. That’s one of the reasons I give away a lot of my books. It might be the only therapy some people can access.

I don’t drink alcohol at all and have never taken drugs. Were there circumstances in my life that could have provided me with a good reason to end up homeless? There certainly was. Did I have a loving functional family, and that’s the reason I didn’t?

Again, certainly not.

But we don’t have to know the answer to know there is a problem.

Can’t Get A Job

Here there are two explanations. One, they can’t pass a drug test, and second, they don’t want to work. The second reason is the one that causes me a problem. I’m such a big believer in the philosophy that hard work is good for everyone. The book of Proverbs is chocked-full of verses that speak to this. The apostle Paul does as well.

Work gives us dignity. It makes us feel valuable. So not wanting to work is foreign to me. And when you see this person standing next to a help-wanted sign, you just want to throw up your hands in confusion. There have been times I’ve wanted to stop and just point to the person begging on the corner and say, “Hmmmm, can you read?”

Homelessness is forced upon them.

All kinds of circumstances can transpire that cause a person to be homeless. They lose their home. They lose their job. And, yes, we can say that that alone shouldn’t cause someone to be homeless and have to beg on a street corner. And where are their families?

Shouldn’t families be taking them in till they get back on their feet? We wrongly assume people have families that care. Many, many people don’t. It’s heartbreaking.

But it’s way too easy to paint the picture of homelessness with too broad of a brushstroke. Most of us can’t even imagine being homeless.

Then there is choice.

Let’s be clear. There are some people who choose, although I will never understand it, to be homeless. There really are those who are not addicts, or drunks, or mentally ill who choose to live the way they do. While I don’t understand it at all, I think I know a little about the thinking that may have gotten them there.

Aren’t there days you’ve thought to yourself I’d just like to walk away from it all and live off the grid? With all the craziness in the world now, I get that.

However, I think those that choose this style of living and not common.

So what do we do about the beggar on the corner?

man in blue denim jeans sitting beside white short coat dog/homelessness

We did come up with an answer but first…….

Remember, these are people God loves. These are people for whom redemption is as possible as it is for everyone. These are people with loved ones who worry about them. These are people who weren’t always like this. They, too, were once innocent children. Somewhere along the line, they got messed up through wrong choices.

There are practical things we can do.

Keep lunch bags in your car filled with non-perishable snacks.

Maybe offer to get them a meal and bring it back to them.

Financially, support food banks and shelters.

Of course, pray for the homeless but pray with action in mind. What can I personally do?

But in our violent world, we need to be careful. Only roll down your window and give them a snack bag if there are lots of people around. Only bring them a meal under the same circumstances. Under no circumstances should you allow them in your car. I know. It’s sad we have to act this way, but it’s particularly true for women.

Even the Bible teaches us to be aware and smart about what we do.

But, of course, we can’t, except for prayer, possibly do this all the time. So how do we know?

When the Holy Spirit nudges.

And now we come to what the group finally decided.

First of all, homelessness is real. It’s complex. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Tomorrow I will share my very recent “Holy Spirit” nudge.

Till then, God bless, and be on the alert.

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