Ministering to the Homeless

The Homeless

Many think of the homeless as the drunken bum and the elderly bag lady on skid row. Yet the composition of the homeless has changed drastically since the Depression. Social Security has all but eliminated the bag lady of former days who lost her husband and had no savings to fall back on. In addition, modern Feminists, unlike former Feminists who sought protection for women, abolished the protection of marriage with easy divorce and their emphasis on not marrying and set off the sexual revolution by telling women they had a right to sexual freedom and legalized abortion which they said would take care of any “accidents”.  The result was large numbers of single mothers with children living in poverty. While welfare payments took care of such mothers for awhile, it did nothing to get them out of poverty and condemned their children and grandchildren to a welfare existence, creating a situation which was unsustainable.

Welfare reform limited the number of years women could be on it, which cut the cost of welfare but tossed the women out at the end to rely on their own resources. Many had no job experience and could only get part time low-paying jobs, if any. Most of those able to find work are only one step from homelessness. The slightest illness or job loss quickly adds them to the rolls of the homeless. While subsidized housing has helped some, the units available are way to few. In addition, it added a large number of single men who are divorced or have left a string of girlfriends with illegitimate children to the list of drug addicts and alcoholics. Such men choose to be homeless because their income would be siphoned off for child support if they were to get a stable job or address. The current economic crisis has added large numbers of stable families to the list of homeless when they lost their jobs and they could not borrow on the equity because the value of the house no longer covered what they still owed.

Solutions to homelessness are as varied as the people themselves. Each situation must be examined and a plan created based on the needs of those who re homeless. Some churches are beginning to attack the problem but the need far outstrips the efforts of the few currently involved. (see “Rural Homelessness” in “A Servant’s Heart-part-B”) Some churches are organizing clusters to use church facilities to house the homeless. Thirteen churches take turns putting up homeless families in their church for a week at a time so each church only does it once every thirteen weeks and no church is overburdened. The host church then arranges meals for the homeless. Others are arranging for home repairs for those whose deteriorating housing may soon become unlivable, leaving them homeless.  Some are buying up deteriorating housing and fixing them up or building new homes and selling them to needy families interest free for the cost of purchase and materials (labor is donated by volunteers). Some churches are developing budget classes to assist needy families in using their funds wisely. Other churches are assisting the unemployed find work. All are helping some but more churches are needed to become involved. (For more, check out the section on Homelessness in “A Servant’s Heart part B”)