Need some help deciding about how to give, or who to give to? Email me. I’d be happy to tell you about the many, many ways that you can help homeless people in Greensboro. Or people who are: hungry, poor, mentally ill, addicted, abused, or just trying to start over.
image credit: borazivkovic
I went to the annual ConvergeSouth Barbecue at David and Jinni Hoggard’s on Friday night. It was great to see my blogging friends.
At the end of the evening, Hogg asked if I wanted to take the rest of the food (there was lots left!) to feed some of our homeless friends. Since it was Friday night, the NightWatch team was already out, so I called and they sent the van by to pick up the food. I’ve since heard from the night’s team leader that the barbecue was a big hit with our friends and much appreciated!
Thank you, David and Jinni, for your warm hospitality, and for sharing that hospitality with our homeless friends. God bless you.
Update #2: Just got an email from NightWatch team member Erik R., who was on the truck Friday night. He says:
The BBQ was well received last Friday… This week could we get ribs???
LOL, Erik. And thanks again, Hogg.
In her post, “Talking Trash,” Liz Seymour asks:
“Which is more important: feeding hungry people or the law? If you ask yourself the question over and over again it becomes like that little place on the wall where the paint has buckled. Curious, you pick at the bubble one day and discover that the plaster underneath is cracked…”
They’re asking (and answering) that question down in Florida, too. A member of Orlando’s Food Not Bombs has been found not guilty on charges that he violated a city ordinance against feeding the homeless. FNB members in West Palm Beach also continue to feed the homeless, despite the recent passage of a city ordinance against it there, as well.
Feeding hungry people shouldn’t have to involve legal drama. But too often, it does.
We work to overcome the social and economic barriers that prevent individuals and families from achieving their goals.
Their home page links to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the Universal Living Wage Campaign, the Food Research and Action Center, and the N.C. Justice Center. They are not just housing homeless people. They are working for change. Bravo, IFC!
Their shelter has a free medical clinic, on-site mental health screenings and counseling and a job mentoring program. (Wow!) Homeless friends in Greensboro who’ve stayed at the Chapel Hill shelter tell me that residents participate in the work of the shelter, such as clean-up, and it gives them a sense of ownership and pride. I’ve been told by a number of homeless people that the Chapel Hill shelter is the best they’ve stayed in, both for its services and for the sense of community that it fosters.
IFC is doing good things for homeless people. When they move to the new men’s shelter, they will use the Project Homestart model (already used in the women and children’s shelter) and the men will have an active role in running the shelter and deciding who stays there. They’ll move from a dorm to a quad to double rooms as they make the transition back to permanent housing.
Bottom line: If you just provide services, then you’re just maintaining homelessness. If you want to see real change and work toward ending homelessness and poverty, then you work for social justice and systemic transformation. Kudos to Chapel Hill’s IFC for their advocacy for the homeless, hungry and poor.
A local pastor’s blog, links to a post about panhandling on Internet Monk.com, entitled: “Question: Should I give money to people on the street who ask for it?” The post focuses on the need for stewardship on resources; Paul’s teaching that if a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat; and the problem of aggressive panhandling. The writer concludes that we shouldn’t give money to panhandlers. And I agree. But there’s more to the story.
â€œAddiction, mental illness, con artists and criminal intent are on most of Americaâ€™s streets. The truly poor will be known to local shelters, ministries, schools and social workers.â€
And my response:
Iâ€™m a former case manager and now a member of an evangelical street outreach ministry team. Some of the poorest folks that I know are addicted and/or mentally ill, and they live on the streets in my town. Some are also con artists. Most all them have criminal records. Every one of them is loved by Jesus, and He came to free them from bondage. Thatâ€™s the message that they so desperately need to hear.
Itâ€™s hard to hear the message when youâ€™re hungry. And itâ€™s hard to hear it when no one is sharing it with you. And itâ€™s hard to hear it when people are avoiding you and not living the message in front of you.
Unless you know their individual situation, giving cash to panhandlers may hurt more than it helps, if itâ€™s used to feed an addiction, so I advise most people not to give cash, unless they feel strongly led by the Holy Spirit to do so.
I do encourage people to make eye contact, speak a kind word, see the panhandler as Jesus would, as a child of God. Maybe go in a group of two or three, have a conversation, offer to pray for the person. If theyâ€™re hungry, buy them a meal and eat together, or at least sit and talk with them while they eat. If the panhandler has another need, find out how to meet it. Learn about the homeless service agencies in your town, and find out where to refer people for help. Invite the panhandler to church. Donâ€™t be afraid to treat someone the way that Jesus would. Take a risk.
One of my homeless friends told me about standing on a street corner and watching as drivers averted their eyes from him and people crossed the street to the other sidewalk so that they wouldnâ€™t have to walk by him. â€œNo one ever talks to me,â€ he said. He was so lonely.
Yes, aggressive panhandlers are different. In our community, theyâ€™re almost always substance abusers who need to get high, and they can get ugly when you say â€œno.â€ We have a well-enforced panhandling ordinance to deal with this type of behavior, and itâ€™s usually best to avoid panhandlers who are displaying it. Butâ€¦ theyâ€™re not always like that. Do you see that same panhandler when he or she is not looking for a fix? When theyâ€™re in a different mood? More approachable? I know I do. And thatâ€™s when I try to talk to them. And sometimes Iâ€™ll say, â€œSo, the other day when I saw youâ€¦â€ And that just might be a good ministry opportunity. Sometimes people get sick and tired of being sick and tired. And theyâ€™re ready to escape. There are probably organizations in your community that can help with substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment. Find out.
Jesus loves addicts, mentally ill people, con artists, criminals and panhandlers. I am so thankful. Because I love them, too. And if Jesus could save me, I know He can save them, too.
Peace to you, CM
Help for the homeless in Greensboro: