Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Homelessness- Problem vs. Concern

As the weather is getting warmer, my thoughts keeping going back to the homeless that we have been sheltering, every Friday night at our church, since Christmas. Our conclusion of this mission will end at the end of this month and it fills me with mixed feelings. My heart goes out to these people. Most of them have underlying issues that will prevent them from assimilating or wanting to assimilate with what we consider “normal” society. Human nature and our Christianity make us believe that this is a problem that needs to be fixed, right?

I am not so sure. Sure we have guests that are at our church because they got kicked out of someone’s house or because they lost their housing because they did not pay their bills. For those people, social service programs are created to assist them. But for a certain percentage of this population, it is not a problem to be fixed. By sane mind or not, these few are homeless by choice. Many just want to be left alone. They want to go to a soup kitchen for a meal, find a safe place to sleep or just spend some time at the library. They do not want to go into a program that will force them to comply with rules. They are out there in spite or because they do not want to follow these rules.

This is what me and many of my church peers struggle with. We cannot create a solution to our perceived problem when the problem does not exist. For example, last summer, the church coalition that started this program last winter decided to create planning committees to tackle this winter season. One particular subject was brought up time and time again and that was showers. Many thought we needed to provide places every day to our guest so that they could take a shower. A local non-profit already provided this service, albeit on a limited basis. However it still existed. But through others eyes, this was a perceived problem. When in fact, it was more about those volunteers having issues about the guests from the previous year.

I am not saying that we do not need to steer some of these guests towards certain programs if they need it. But let the guests decide this. We, as church folk, should just open our doors, feed our guests, provide a safe and secure place to rest their heads, and provide them our fellowship.

Looking into next year, we need to plan less and just do it. This year vs. last year we over thought our whole program and we made this mission into a system. Let us bring it back to a mission. As our guests leave us again this year, I have a growing concern for their health and safety. At the same time though I have come to grips with the fact that I cannot fix the reason why some of them are out there. They are homeless for a reason and there is some help out they if they need it.

It is not our mission to solve anything, but it is our mission to provide a loving community. I hope we have done that. In the end I just hope that the little bit of hospitality that my church has provided to them every Friday will help them to feel loved and in the end that is all we can ask for.

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