Pastor Steve’s Full Blog Posts
I suppose it depends on who you ask.
Some people consider all horseless people worthless because they are either mentally ill or addicted, because otherwise they wouldn’t be on the street. Many homeless consider themselves worthless because they have failed at the basics of living in society. They see themselves and anyone else in their community on the street failures, worthless, pointless. Others look at a person on the street as disgusting, to be treated as trash, out of their neighborhoods and only deserving to appear at soup kitchens and repenting at church.
However, there are many of us who disagree. How some look at the outcast has nothing to do with their worth. Their dirty clothes hide noble souls, jewels buffed by difficulty. They are people who are missing stability and a loving community for them to be whole people. But they still give so much.
Homeless people give to society, recycling and reusing what many throw away. They help and encourage their fellow poor, providing hope and opportunities for survival.
On a freezing night, a young woman was kicked out of her home with only shorts on and no shoes or a coat. She huddled in the snow next to a transformer, proviing the only heat she can find. My homeless friend rode by on his bike and said, “You look cold! Wait here for a few minutes.” In ten minutes, visiting three dumpsters he frequented regularly, he came back with a coat, shoes and a pair of socks. It didn’t get her out of the cold, but it helped her survive.
Homeless people are among the most generous people I know, all while struggling against the economic force of the world. No one is worthless. Homeless folks least of all.
It is frequent that houseless folks lose their ID. Wallets are stolen, misplaced, taken by officials sweeping their camp. In obtaining a new ID, there could be a number of issues: finances, proof of identification, and having an address to put on an ID.
1. Birth certificates are the main form of proof. If one doesn’t have this, they must obtain it from the county of their birth. This is easiest to get if one has an immediate family member obtain it for them. To get it otherwise, one has to have other kinds of proof, such as an affidavit from a person who knows who they are, signed before a notary public. Other kinds of proof could be military records or jail/prison records.
2. Generally a person proves their address by giving a piece of mail from an address. But what address? P.O. Boxes aren’t accepted. In most cities there are churches or non-profit organizations who will act as an address for people who live on the street.
3. Many cities have organizations that provide finances to obtain state ID. Check a local shelter or day shelter if they have any information about help in this area.
There is also a possibility that if a person is still in the system, a copy of their ID might be provided with a minimum proof, as they have a picture and signature of the individual in their system. Check with your state DMV for more information on this.
The real economic drain comes in health expenses. Many houseless have no health insurance, and emergency room visits are a huge expense. Living in the rough is unhealthy and most the average year of death of houseless folks is 48, before that end, many have expensive procedures.
It is considerably cheaper for a society to provide housing than to treat people who live on the street. The economy would improve, and we would have more citizens involved in our community, if all who wanted to be housed could be.
However, it has been shown that approximately fourteen percent of those on the street lost their housing due to substance abuse. As a person is on the street longer, the more likely it is that they will be addicted to a drug. Chronic houseless individuals are much more likely to be addicted than a person on the street for a year or less.
This is because drugs or alcohol are being used as a way to ease the pain of living on the street, especially if they are regularly harassed and abused. Up to 80 percent of homeless youth use substances to deal with the trauma they experience every day.
I have found again and again that many houseless individuals or couples find it a fair exchange to drop their substance abuse for stability and opportunities for a new life. This isn’t true of everyone, as the street is also the only reliable depot of those our society considers unacceptable. But we need to stop considering substance abuse as a personal failure and instead see it as a health issue in our society.
Reference: National Coalition on the Homeless, http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/addiction.pdf
Moses has got some wisdom, Solomon should be taken with a gain of salt, Paul is easily misunderstood, but Jesus, he’s my guy. Being my Lord and Savior, you know.
So Jesus said, “Give to everyone who asks of you.”
When I really looked at that command, REALLY looked, that was a difficulty. I mean, what if someone asks for my house? What if someone asks for my car? Another translations says, “Give to those who beg,” but the Greek word isn’t “beg”, it’s the most common word for “ask” or “request.” In the context, Jesus is talking about loving enemies and his emphasis is to give to everyone, without exception.
So I tried it out.
Every person who held a sign, I gave to. If they asked for money, I gave them that. If they asked for food, I gave them that. If a person asked for my time, I gave them that. If someone asked for a place to crash for the night, I gave them that. And sometimes that didn’t turn out well. A couple people were using drugs in my bathroom. A couple people took things from my house.
I needed to think about this, in the context of what Jesus was saying.
First, Jesus said I had to love everyone, without exception. That meant my family too. So there were people in my household (family and non-family) whom I am required to care for, but if I harm their well-being by helping others, that isn’t so great. That isn’t loving everyone. So I can fail to keep Jesus’ command by obeying Jesus’ command. This requires wisdom. So I only invited people in my house whom I knew wouldn’t harm others in the house.
Second, Jesus said I had to love. Not all giving is loving. When we pray to God, he doesn’t give us what we ask for all the time. He gives us “every good and precious gift”. Only good things, not things that would harm us. A loaf of bread, not a snake. So we need to give in the same way. I needed to make sure that what I gave benefited the other person, not just whatever they asked for. This also requires wisdom.
To give according to love requires listening and paying attention to other people. What do they really need? What are they really asking for? Jesus himself did this when he didn’t just heal a blind man, but asked him, “What do you want?” Giving isn’t a one way street. It begins with a dialogue.
Often I can give to make me feel good. I need to give to truly benefit the other in front of me. Sometimes I can get some food from a local store and that’s enough. But most of the time, my giving requires more work and wisdom than that.
But I realized in giving