Can we identify with those who live on the streets? I don’t mean hopeless conversations and pre-judgement calls such as “Well, they’re drunks and if I give them money they will just spent it on more booze…” That isn’t identifying with homelessness, that’s passing judgement on them. Yes, something needs to be done, but casting blame, brow beating and ugly talk will not restore lives.
Just this past week, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson called for the removal of the “ugly, stupid anti-homeless spikes” in a modern upscale neighborhood after many took to social media sites to decry this horrific practice and homeless deterrent. (source: http://rt.com/news/164952-anti-homeless-spikes-remove/)
Although we can see this as a success in “spreading the word”, we shouldn’t just stop here to rest on our laurels, much work still remains to be done.
Personalizing Homelessness – breaking the prejudgements:
Some have argued that these protests against anti-homeless constructions infringe on the rights of the landowners or landlords. Understandably, this is a concern. Certainly those who are good stewards of their property wish to maintain a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment for their tenants, but at what cost?
How are we to care for others while taking care of the properties around us? This is a troubling issue, and both sides of this argument require consideration. Yet many times the campaign of driving homelessness from the streets of our cities is something done quietly. Why would it be done quietly? Some may wonder. The reason is because of fear of public repercussions. There are times when law enforcement officials are encouraged to drive homeless individuals to locations outside of town and drop them off. When this type of practice happens we begin to dehumanize people. What is the value of a life today? Even if that life is smelly, dirty and unhealthy, that person is still human.
Making it personal:
What if that person on the street is your brother or sister? What if that homeless person is a son or daughter? Wouldn’t you want others to treat them fairly? Would you want someone to help them? There are many root causes of homelessness, drugs and alcohol are usually the first things we assume brought them to homelessness, but mental abuse and disabilities are also contributors. These are the least of these in our communities. These are people without voices. What if we made homelessness personal. What if we humanized these poor wretches for a moment. I don’t use that term to make them seem “under” me by any means, but how much of a difference does it make to see them as equals to us? Sure they may be without homes, incomes and families, but are they not still loved by an Almighty God who knows their names and loves them the same as He loves us?
The difference between apathy and mercy:
There’s a vast difference between these two words. One speaks of indifference to others while the other speaks of compassion and love. One is uncaring while the other cares. Which are we? Do we see people living on the streets…actually see them? Is there something that WE can do? I certainly don’t propose that we go and put ourselves in danger…but there is something we can do to avoid apathy in these situations. Care. Find places like The Salvation Army who can go in uniform with many hands to help clothe, feed and show love. Become involved, volunteer in church groups who minister through soup kitchens and other feeding programs. One such program is The Salvation Army’s Bed & Bread club – http://www.usc.salvationarmy.org/usc/www_usc_detroithl.nsf/vw-text-index/9b2226ecdc63d0518025717f007045c7?opendocument
Contribute to authentic ministries and missions who actually go and help those living on the streets. Make homelessness personal. Each person who sleeps out there under bridges and in the nooks of buildings are still people. Some of these homeless individuals have family members still looking for them. We can either construct crude spikes on a street or park bench and drive them from our sight, or we can lend a helping hand without prejudging their motives or intentions.
Homelessness should be personal to us. We should care about others, and if we can help…we should.
-Just another thought to ponder.
Prayer: Lord help me to see others the way that You seen them. Help me to be an instrument of Your peace. Remove my prejudgments and prejudices. Grant me wisdom and love, fill me with Your mercy, and may my hands become Yours. -Amen.