Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Homeless People Outreach

Posted by Chris on October 23, 2006

the following is a list of suggestions that have been helpful for me, or that I would like to do, for dealing with/serving/communicating with/helping needy people on the streets, and for being a better person/servant/have better motives/feel less crappy. it is what it is, okay? is there a delicate way to put it? it may sound un-PC but it is what it is.

also, read what I wrote here

without further ado…

• Collect Bibles and always have one with you to give away. You could get the Bibles new in bulk, ask for donations from some kind of group/organization that has ordered many of them, or buy them from thrift stores. For example, I helped with a camp this summer and we gave Bibles to all the campers. There were several boxes left over. I asked, and was allowed, to take one box of 10 Bibles as long as I planned to distribute them. God then placed in my path someone a few days later with whom to share that gift, when I had not encountered a person on the street in need the entire month I had been in Arkansas.

• Write down verses you like and the page numbers inside the cover of the Bible. Or pre-write notes of encouragement and love to people in the cover or somewhere else of a Bible.

• Collect other books to give away. This is not something I have done, but I think it would be good. They could be Christian living books or secular novels. People do have a right to read things besides the Bible—I certainly do. And then maybe you could even give someone a choice, or offer them something in addition to a Bible, so that it’s not like all you think is important is whether or not they “confess with their mouth” and read the New Testament.

• Any time you eat out where you get a big meal, don’t feel so pressured to eat it all if you are satisfied and there’s some food left. Get a to-go box. Then give it away! If you are somewhere where you won’t necessarily see someone on the walk back to your car/dorm/apartment, be intentional about looking for someone. And use some wisdom with the food- some people might gladly accept ¼ of your burger that is bitten around, but, that may be insulting. Do not be haughty because you are doing anyone a favor and believe that someone would be foolish to turn down your food. You have germs; you are a sinner; you should be grateful for the opportunity to serve, following in the footsteps of Jesus.

• Give away ink pens—this could be done in combination with books/Bibles. You can buy a pack of 10 for 2 bucks and give something useful to 5 people that they may not have wanted to spend money on otherwise.

• I heard a pastor who faced some of the same problems I expressed in part 1 during a vacation to San Francisco. He and his wife were weary of not being able to help all the people they encountered. What they decided to do was buy groceries and make sandwiches to distribute. Again, an resourceful and “cost-effective” way to serve. (Don’t think of it as “cheap”—that has a bad connotation—it’s okay to do things in a cost-effective way, no one has an unlimited source of cash). In addition, it shows care on your part to spend time to make sandwiches. And I bet that you will feel more love for people as you give out something that was made by your own hands—it will be more personal.

• When I was in Philadelphia, the grocery store I went to had a gourmet food section. They sold these really good foccacia bread sandwiches for $4.99. However, you could buy day old sandwiches for $2.00. They tasted great, I thought of giving them away after eating them myself. Sometimes, I’d buy 3 sandwiches in the morning, 2 to give away and 1 to eat for myself. I would go to the convenience store on the corner to buy a drink when someone would ask me for food. It was costing too much to take people inside and get them a sandwich made, so instead I had something already prepared that I could give them.

• Stay with people while they eat. It is a good time to talk and listen. Food allows all of us to let down our guard. Ask them where they are from, about their family. Listen willingly to their “story” if they give it to you without immediate disbelief. Suspend your judgments and take people at their word at least to the extent that it allows you to empathize and encourage. Also, offer to either pray for them about these things and any goals/hopes they have, or even better, pray with them right there. Pray for their immediate needs and for their souls; for the love of Christ and others to be ever-present in their lives.

• Prepare packs of useful things to give away. Toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and soap. I’ve heard of churches/youth groups doing this to send overseas or take to a homeless shelter. But I just thought yesterday how those groups never go to where the people in need live. They always rely on a middleman to remove that awkward interaction. They also choose to give to a “reliable” charity, assuming people on the street to either be drunks or people who aren’t actually homeless. Don’t have that attitude. Seasonally, you could have gloves in winter or an umbrella if it rained often in summer.

• Know what help is available. Likely, the people you meet already know. If they tell you they just got in town and need 20 bucks for a bus to wherever, maybe that’s true and maybe not. Either way, it can’t hurt to be able to direct them to a shelter, salvation army, etc…

• Give out bus tokens. Maybe they need to get back to their house on the other side of town, maybe not. But everyone deserves taking a ride and not walking sometimes. Hope that the person uses the token to get somewhere where they may have better resources, know that it can bless them no matter what.

• Buy gift cards to give out. Then, you know what your money is going for. Also, it is easy to keep up with. You could get gift cards for a coffee shop in the winter or a pharmacy. obviously, you could go the grocery store route, but then you are opening up the possibilities of what someone might purchase. and then restaurants would be another good one.

• Finally, a principle that to me sounds great but convicts me to the core: Consider nothing in this world to precious to give away. We are instructed to love nothing in this world (1 John 2:15). If you can’t take it with you to heaven, why struggle to hold on to it on earth?

I will add to this list as I learn more and mature as a person (which always mean editing and apologizing for past immaturity!). Please give suggestions as well.

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