What do you do 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 to be confronted by the homeless - their needs often seem too overwhelming - but we all want to treat them fairly and justly. Here are some simple guidelines to equip you to truly help the homeless people you meet:
1. Avoid giving cash.
For many people, panhandling is their livelihood. And more often than not, they are panhandling for something you may not want to support with your money. If the person is hungry, you may consider buying them a sandwich and a beverage.
2. 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. And besides being just neighborly, it gives the person a weapon to fight the isolation, depression and paranoia that many homeless people face.
3. Recognize that homeless people (and their problems) are not all the same.
The homeless are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. The person you meet may be an addict, a person who has lost a job, someone who had a falling out with family...the list goes on.
4. Share God’s love whenever you can.
If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would certainly spend time with the homeless. He would speak with them, heal them, and help them. Today, Jesus chooses to work through those who believe and follow Him.
5. 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 and the brutality and the futility of life of the street to bring many of the broken to Himself.
6. Take precautions for your own safety.
Some living on the streets are criminals and fugitives running from the law. Always be prudent while talking with street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Don’t take unnecessary chances.
7. Encourage the homeless to get help through the Mission.
The Mission is able to provide immediate care such as food, shelter and clothing. In addition, we will address issues that the person is facing and work toward solutions. Although you may encourage someone to seek help at the Mission or another facility, it's ultimately their decision.
8. Support the Mission.
The Lima Rescue Mission receives 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.