Countless times a day, homeless people are rejected, falsely accused, harassed, ticketed, and even beat up, all for the "crime" of not having a roof over their heads or of being dirty or of carrying all their possessions in a backpack. The homeless are treated as the outcast of society, as those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Yet the homeless are not the cause of the evils of our society. Nor are they necessarily the outcome of our evils. The homeless are people—people who want to live and love and hope and work, just like you do. Let us not continue to punish those who are lowly in our society, but help them.
Battle the cliches of the homeless
The homeless are "us", not "them"—Many of the homeless are good Christians or children of important citizens. Many of our neighbors and friends have been homeless at one time or another. Homelessness is not an evil, or even necessarily a tragedy—it is a stage of life that many of us have gone through.
The homeless DO work—While most do not have jobs, they do work hard, some harder than people who have "regular jobs". It is not easy to get up at 6am to get to dumpsters before anyone else and climb in many of them in order to get recycled cans. Other homeless volunteer at free hot meals and shelters.
Not all homeless are alcoholics—In general, about one third of the homeless have alcohol or drug abuse problems. Many more have mental health or social difficulties. Many have had tragedies that have overwhelmed them, such as a loss of a job or the suicide of a spouse or family member.
Not all homeless are criminals or violent—Most homeless abhor the crime and violence done by the few homeless who do because it gets them accused. The homeless have the same percentage of theft and violence as those who are housed.
Teach your children and the community not to hate the homeless.
The majority of violent crimes against the homeless are done by middle class youth who feel that they have the right to violently fulfill the prejudices of their parents and community. If our youth and community learn that the homeless are human—people like us—then such crimes will be reduced, even eliminated.
Meet and listen to homeless people
Find out the times and locations of local free meals and sit at the table with the homeless. Find out their real motivations and hopes and desires. You may find that they do not differ that much from your own. Be patient with a homeless person’s oddness—you seem just as odd to them.
Include the homeless in social events
Invite the homeless to community and church functions. However, because many of them do not believe that they would be welcome, certain assurances must be made:
It is not necessary to be well-dressed for the function.
It may be necessary to provide transportation to and from the event.
An announcement may be necessary to make sure that everyone is accepting of the homeless.
Support benevolence organizations that assist the homeless
Volunteer at a free meal, give to an organization that helps the homeless, give blankets and clothes to a shelter. Call a local church to find out where you can help the homeless. As you give and volunteer be a friend to those you are helping—seeing and meeting them— not a distant, nameless Benefactor.
Provide opportunities for the homeless
Provide what the homeless REALLY need—opportunities to shower, socks, clean clothes, an address, a chance to work for money, a chance to do volunteer work for others. Be a friend to the homeless and help them get the resources they need.