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Saturday, May 2, 2015

What Would Jesus Do? - Helping the Homeless

There's been something on my mind for several  months - actually for a couple of years - and I would really like to hear your prayerful thoughts on the subject.  Your prayerful thoughts.  Not what you've always thought but I'd like for you to pray about it, let God guide you, and then tell me what you get.                                                ___________________________________

I was getting involved in our nearby homeless shelter.  I was involved a few years ago when a group was getting it started and then got a call, this past September, from one of the founders, asking me to get further involved. So I began attending the board meetings and working for the board members to raise money, etc.

The board members have a real variety of beliefs.  The founder who asked me to get involved has the same beliefs as I do.  She is born-again, Spirit-filled, trusting God and relying on His leading.  But the other board members are not born-again and seem to believe in a government that 'supplies all our needs.'  I found this very troubling.

I also began to volunteer at the shelter with a heart to get to know the 'guests' and share Jesus.

I did not feel convicted by God to do any of this - I felt personally convicted - and I was not quite sure why God wasn't convicting me.  And I knew I was uncomfortable working at the shelter.

I'm a small, 50+ year old woman and there are plenty of rough men at the shelter but there were other women who were volunteering.  In fact, every one of the board members are women and most of the volunteers are women.  So that did not seem to be a valid reason but I was uncomfortable.  My family and close friend also did not witness to me doing this.

The policy of the shelter was that a guest could stay for 45 days while looking for other alternatives. At the end of the 45 days, if they were complying with authorities to get housing but it hadn't come through yet, they could apply for an extension.  The longest a guest could stay was 90 days.

I was there one day when I became aware that a guest's 90 days was up on Friday.  The lady in charge of carrying out the Board's decisions in this matter had informed this guest he had to leave on Friday. One of the board members, the lady who's beliefs are the same as mine, interceded and said he would not be asked to leave.  There was a disagreement and the lady, who was following the board's directions, resigned.

In the middle of all this uproar, the guest who was being evicted (not) told me very rudely that "all you Christians need to read your Bible."  He rudely made his opinion known that we should continue to supply him with food and shelter.

I had already noticed an attitude from most of the guests.  There were a few who were polite and thankful, but most had an attitude of entitlement.  And some were just downright rude, foul-mouthed and demanding.  I would leave everyday after volunteering and have to literally cleanse myself in the Holy Spirit and God's Word.  I could sense the demonic trying to attach to me and shadow my thinking.  I always felt very aware of the filth and the mocking of the enemy.

I am not saying that I am not without great compassion.  I am very aware that the Word tells us that "Jesus was moved by compassion and healed the sick."  Jesus aligned Himself with the poor and homeless and chose to be homeless Himself.  In this world, we Believers in Christ are homeless as we wait to be reunited with our God.  That's why I was there.  And I prayed for people and got involved with their lives.

The guests were required to do 'chores' at the shelter to keep it clean and functioning but there wasn't much to do and when I was there most of them sat around all day on their laptops or phones or just talking.  I realize that if you don't have a job to go to or a house to maintain there's not much else to do, but...

There's another principle of God that I believe we have to balance with our mercy and grace and that's that if a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat.  The shelter was appealing to the nearby churches to raise money to keep the shelter open.  People were coming by every day with clothing and food and I could tell they felt guilty that they weren't doing more.  I feel that some of my motivation was guilt and God does not motivate with guilt.  He  motivates with a pure love and conviction.

I realized that a lot of the guests had been 'in the system' for most of their lives.  This was just another way for them to continue in their life style.  When they left, the government would supply them with money to pay their rent.

I understand that a few of them were physically impaired but most them were not.  I was shocked, and I mean shocked, to see the amount of pharmaceuticals each guest had.  We kept them locked in a cabinet and the guests were required to ask when they needed to take something.  Most guests had between 3 and 8 large bottles of prescription drugs - antidepressants, pain killers, blood pressure medicine - all that indicate a very wounded soul.

Illegal drugs were not allowed in the shelter, of course, and some guests who had attempted to hide them in the parking lot outside or sneak them into the shelter were permanently evicted.  In summary, most of the guests were drug addicts, whether it was prescription or illegal drugs.  Very many times I have gone to God and said, "Where do I start, LORD?"

Almost every one of them smoked.  The shelter allowed them to step outside every hour on the hour, for a total of 15 minutes to smoke.  I asked someone how much a pack of cigarettes cost and did the math.  Most of them were spending $400 a month on cigarettes - money that could be applied to rent - and might even be enough to afford an apartment.

Most of them had families nearby.  Why weren't they staying with their families, I wondered.  But then I realized that they most likely were a 'product' of their families and things probably were the same there.

There's a government subsidized apartment complex in our town.  The rent is adjusted to income and I know that the rent for some is less than $400.  However, the people in the shelter could not qualify for this housing because of their criminal records or history of not paying on time.

It's kind of like the story of giving a person a fishing pole and teaching them to fish rather than giving them a fish every day.  I understand that each one of these people need Jesus to heal their hearts and we are dependent on Him for the answers.  I understand that people's wounded hearts and wrong thinking cannot be changed without Him and their whole lives need to change.  I also understand that God gives each of us a free will but many times our free will is held in bondage by the enemy with great deception.
Did you know that a large percentage of people who win the lottery end up bankrupt?  You can give people money, but you can't expect that they know how to manage it wisely and most times they will end up back where they started. Some people don't believe they deserve any better.

But in the meantime, we need to figure out a way to help them while still demanding that they be accountable for their lives.  We need to be careful to not treat them like children, which is what I felt like was being done.  They are adults and are responsible for their own lives.

And I want to make note that in our economy, there are those who have done everything 'right', lost their jobs and their homes and just need a step up.  I firmly believe that we are to help them!  These are the people in the shelter who spent their time looking for jobs, driving their children back and forth to school, and working on their vehicles in the parking lot.  We need to assess each person's situation independently.

So, my thought was to develop a system of work and credits.  In other words, if a church donates money and food, the people in the shelter work for the church - cleaning the building, shoveling the snow, working for the community.  I like everything about this idea.

The problem is that I saw in the news shortly after I quit volunteering that one of the former guests, a young woman who was particularly rude, was arrested for breaking and entering and theft.

So I realize that some of the people cannot be trusted.  And then what do we do?  The young woman had a 4 month old baby at the time.

So please give me your thoughts.  I initially went to the shelter thinking that we should all open our homes and invite people in.  I realize now how foolish that would be.  But "The Church" is called to be Jesus' hands and feet here on this earth.  I believe we are to 'seek the lost' - not hide in the church building. I believe we are to live sacrificially.  I believe we are to feed the poor, heal the sick and house the homeless.  How are we to do this - balancing God's mercy with all the principles He teaches?


I need to have peace that I'm doing all that I can do to change the world - Big Rapids, Michigan. This is where I'm called to serve.

love and blessings~


"Go to the ant, O sluggard.  Observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.  How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest - your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like a armed man."  Proverbs 6:6-11