When you see someone holding up a sign, “Will Work for Food,” Do you roll down your window and give them money? Do you pretend you didn’t see them? Nobody likes being confronted by the homeless – their needs often seem too overwhelming – but we all want to treat them fairly and justly.
Here are 8 simple guidelines from the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission to equip you to truly help the homeless people you meet:
- Never give cash to a homeless person. Too often, well intended gifts are converted to drugs or alcohol – even when the “hard luck” stories are true. If the person is hungry, buy them a sandwich and a beverage.
- Talk to the person with respect. Taking time to talk to a homeless person in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of civility and dignity; it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression and paranoia that many homeless people face.
- Recognize that the homeless people (and their problems) are not all the same. The homeless are as diverse as the colors of the rainbow. The person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, someone who is lacking job skills…the list goes on.
- Share God’s love whenever you can. If God were walking the earth today, He would certainly spend time with the homeless. Today, God chooses to work through those who believe and follow Him.
- Pray for the homeless. Exposure to the elements, dirt, occasional violence, and lack of purpose all drain years from a person’s life. God can use your prayers to bring many of the broken to Himself.
- Take precautions for your own safety. Always be prudent while talking with street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Don’t take unnecessary chances.
- Encourage the homeless to get help through your local mission. Rescue missions offer immediate food and shelter to the homelessness through their emergency shelters. Many offer long-term rehabilitation programs that deal with the root causes of homelessness.
- Support your local Mission. Most missions receive little or no government funding; we are supported by caring individuals, churches, businesses, and civic groups who see the value of sharing their resources with the less fortunate.
Another simple, practical way to help the homeless is to make and carry some care packages with you in your car that you can give to people when you meet them. Your local Dollar Store is a great place to maximize your money to create packages. Here are some things to include: