(Chelsea Johnson, 1776 Scholar) Matthew 25:35 says “For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Colorado had a homeless population of more than 10,000 people in 2016 according to the Denver Post. The majority of the homeless population sleep in emergency shelters which provide quick and temporary safety, but these shelters do not provide sufficient resources to get these people back on their feet. As Colorado’s homeless crisis has grown more pronounced, many Christians face a dilemma. How do we assist the homeless in need without enabling them to remain in their present dependent condition? Unsure how to answer this question, many Christians are unwilling to invest in the homeless population because they believe homeless individuals have brought poverty on themselves through wrong choices.
Sadly, the reality is that most of homeless people had no control over their circumstances. Some are escaping abuse, many are suffering from mental disorders, and others face bankruptcy and unemployment. Moreover, once one of these people falls into homelessness, their time and energy must be dedicated to meeting basic needs like finding shelter and food—leaving them trapped in a homeless lifestyle.
Fortunately, there are solutions to the homeless crisis that meet the real needs of these individuals while empowering them to thrive in self-sufficiency. If Christians used our extra resources and time to truly invest in these individuals, we could make a profound material and spiritual impact on their lives. By encouraging homeless individuals to get back on their feet, we can help them for a lifetime, not just a moment.
For starters, ministries should not do for the homeless what they can do for themselves. More and more homeless shelters are asking that residents assist in preparing the meals, setting the tables, and washing the cooking utensils. Other shelters allow patrons to stay a certain amount of time and provide internet resources so that they can find jobs, reconnect with family, and learn skills that will assist them in daily life. By supporting these types of shelters and personally investing in the lives of the homeless, we can fulfill Jesus’ command to help others while also assisting them to make better lives for themselves rather than enabling them.
The job of helping the homeless should not fall completely on shelters. As a church, it is our responsibility to provide an outlet for these people to feel safe. Otherwise, the homeless are often shunned and derided. When someone is viewed as less valuable than others, they tend to believe this lie and will ultimately act incapable of helping themselves. Although they are living in different circumstances, a homeless person’s state of life does not make them any less loved by the Creator which we all share. Thus, when ministering to them, Christians must be very careful to treat the homeless as our equals instead of charity cases. This attitude of love and respect will provide these individuals with the confidence and self-worth that they need to progress in life.
Ultimately, it is our job as Christians to provide the basic resources that homeless people need while tangibly equipping them with the tools that they need to take personal initiative and become self-supporting. We are called to help others, and the way we do this has an immense impact on how a person may live the rest of their life. So, let us go forth with the love and genuinely helpful charity that has made the church a dynamic force of change for centuries.