Why Help The Homeless?

Posted: May 27, 2008 in Compassion, Employment, Family, Health, Homelessness, Morality, Veterans

One of the emails I found waiting in my inbox this morning came right out and asked "…why should we help the homeless?"

It was quite a lengthy email which was really nothing more than a litany of complaints about the homeless. As far as this person was concerned the homeless should just "…take care of there own lives and not bohter the rest of us!" (the typos are his, not mine)  

The person seemed to feel that every homeless person should just go right out and find work; or else they should move somewhere else. Moreover this person felt that he shouldn’t be made to feel guilty if he didn’t choose to help the homeless because "… I got bills of my own too pay."

I haven’t responded to that email… yet. I placed it in the "pending" file. As soon as I can figure out how best to answer it in a manner that this gentleman might be able to understand, then I’ll send my reply. Then again, I may just put it in the Recycle Bin, since he seems to already have a mind set that will not be changed.

Still, I did want to address the question "… why should we help the homeless?"

So here goes…

As far as I can ascertain, almost every culture has some variation of the "golden rule" – behave toward others the way you would like them to behave toward you.

This being the case, I have to ask: if you were the one who was homeless, how would you want the rest of the community to treat you?

I’m a strong believer in "what goes around, comes around." So, think about the way you behave toward the homeless. If the shoe were on the other foot, would you want to be treated that same way?

For some, being treated the same way would be of no consequence since they behave toward the homeless with compassion, mercy and kindness. But for those who treat the homeless with scorn, disdain and contempt – I’m willing to be they’d be the first ones to cry "foul" if they were treated in a similar fashion. They’d be the ones who would complain the loudest at how disgustedly they were being treated.

Why should we help the homeless?

What if suddenly you found yourself without a home and you were unable to get some form of assistance through any of the homeless support service agencies? With the lack of adequate funding available for these agencies these days, that’s a high probability. Or, what if you "fell between the cracks" and didn’t qualify for certain types of assistance? Wouldn’t you like the rest of the community to give you a hand up?

Why should we help the homeless?

What if you were a single mother with dependant children? And, what if you had no place to leave your children during the day so that you could go out and look for employment? What if one of your children became ill and needed medical treatment? Or, what if you were the one who became sick? Who would care for your children if your illness required you to be hospitalized? Would you want your children taken away from you and placed into a Child Protective Services facility – and then not know whether you’d be able to get them back?

Why should we help the homeless?

What if you were a senior citizen with on-going medical needs? What if you had to choose between paying rent or paying for your prescribed medications? Medi-Cal and/or Medicare simply doesn’t cover all the costs. Paying the rent would keep you housed, but then you wouldn’t have your medications. Paying for your medications might force you into homelessness.

Why should we help the homeless?

What if you were a husband and father who was one of the 260,000 persons nationally whose jobs have been cut just since the beginning of this year and your home had gone into foreclosure or you couldn’t pay the rent and had faced eviction? Wouldn’t you want someone to step up and help you so that you could get your family off of the streets?

Why should we help the homeless?

What if you were one of nearly half a million homeless veterans who have served this nation; someone who has fought to protect the freedoms that everyone in this nation enjoys? Wouldn’t you want, at the very least, to be helped – if not for your humanity – then at least for the sacrifices you’ve made?

Why should we help the homeless?

How about for the most simplest – and most noble – of reasons: because it’s the right thing to do?

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Comments
  1. AnAmerican says:

    Yes, helping the homeless is the right thing to do…but doing the right thing requires a consciousness that looks beyond the pettiness and selfishness of our own lives & allows one to realize that the “us” & “them” mentality simply doesn’t allow us to reach our potential for compassion as humans.

    • easha says:

      i agree in fact m sorry for the person who asked this question because if he kant even think of helping one of the homeless itz nuthn but a waste of life!!!!!!!!!!
      god bless you!!!!!!

      • Mjxp says:

        I recognize your point, but allow me to contest it from a different angle.

        This article was an overabundance of emotional appeal, with no statistical data backing it. Where I’d agree that helping somebody in need is the “right” thing to do by cultural standard, morality itself is an opinion, and an inconsistent one at that. For example, take the average homeless person you see when driving through a busy city. If you, being the cultural standard of a moral person, you’d stop, maybe talk with them a while, and give them some money to buy themselves a meal, or rent a hotel for the night. But in doing this, you’ve got no idea weather or not they’re homeless because of a personal choice, or if even given the opportunity to get their life back, if they’d make the same poor choices that resulted in their homelessness.

        Now take the example of somebody who’s homeless because of something out of their control. The economy is in an awful condition, and we’ve all felt it, some more than others. But the fact that Chronic Homelessness is even a term is disgusting to me. I know three people who were homeless, my own grandfather was homeless from the ages of 16 to 19, and all of them are now financially successful, middle class individuals with families. There are a number of jobs that nearly anybody can get, provided they find a place to take a shower, and wear the nicest clothes they’ve got, which is something three out of four homeless people can do. Jobs in retail, overnight cleaning crews, Hospital food service, nursing home attendants, farmers helping hands, and countless other jobs are more than accessible with a measly interview and a clean presence. I’ve seen it done three times before.

        Finally, before you go flaming off on me in the comments. I’m just a measly freshman in high school, but an extremely educated one. I was reading an article about ways to help the homeless, and really asked my self, “why do we help homeless people?”. I did extensive research, and thought I’d share my opinion with you all.

        Thanks!

        • michael says:

          Mjxp,

          Thanks for taking the time to comment.

          Yes, I’ll agree that this specific post is lacking in statistical data. Nonetheless, its lack of “statistics” does not, in any way, invalidate the overall message.

          Incidently, if you take some time to peruse any number of my other posts, you will find many of them which do provide statistics — as well as what I believe is a more holistic approach for addressing and significantly reducing homelessness. The approach is most commonly known as “Housing First” and has proven itself to be highly successful at helping homeless persons rebuild their lives. An additional benifit of the “Housing First” approach is that is is far less expensive than the traditional “homeless shelter” approach.

          – michael -

        • Wen says:

          Hi,

          I understand that Micheal has a certain moral standpoint which is subjective, and valid in its own way. I also think that Mjxp has a fair point in that there is a range of conditions that the ‘homeless’ people are classified into, and therefore it can seem rather reductionistic to imply that all the homeless people are helpless and need our sympathy in order to live a decent life with basic necessities for living in place ( instead, why not choose to help them to help themselves?). Before I am lambasted for this possible contentious argument, I would like to clarify that I believe that the homeless do require our assistance to overcome the structural barrier that impedes them from attaining the same material and accompanying social needs as the mainstream society.

          Therefore, I think there is a common ground between the perspectives of both of these authors. Whether or not the approach to help the homeless is morally right, the understanding of the situation that perpetuates the homeless in their condition cannot be denied. This could be in helping them oversome the sense of lack of self-esteem to get dressed neatly and be an employee and start working their way back into mainstream society ( or choose to stay in a sense of denial that they are fully unattached to material necessities, are free from the mainstream norms, and therefore are intentionally homeless to preserve that freedom..much can be said on this). Or at least, provide the structure that enables those who want to work their way out of the condition to do so ( although many might require emotional assistance). Apart from that though, it probably would be the most neutral thing to do to not treat them inhumanly or to ostracise the homeless, as been done in some public spaces where the homeless had been warded off using barbed wires and the likes.

          Just a penny for thought. Thanks for reading.

          Wen

    • Lea McWhirter says:

      Jesus says in Matthew 25: 35 – 40
      For I was hungry and you gave mw something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes an clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?
      The King will reply, ‘ I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brother of min, you did for me. NIV
      It seems to me this man does not know the Lord or he would not be so concerned about his bills. It is our job to help those who are less fortunate. We are all God’s people and He loves us all.

    • Tamerhosny says:

      nice

  2. Bill says:

    I think An American is right…we hvae to look past ourselves and need to see the homeless without us being selfish.

    • anamarie says:

      my oppinion is that if you seen around you look how horrible is life do you think that government want to make better life in the community? i don’t think so because if they want to why do are homeless people? we don’t need to be so selfisk i want to imagine how hard is to live in the street while the goverment is enjoying their money.

  3. mary says:

    I always thought: there but for the grace of God goes me and was kind to homeless people. Finding myself homeless, I would think: guess I feel out of grace in God’s eyes.

    It was the Golden Rule, though that was my guiding principle. Living on a triple fault line keeps one mindful that disaster can strike at any time. Imagine quibbling over giving a homeless bloke a quarter and being washed away by a tsunami wave the next day.

    I do not think anyone should be guilted into helping the homeless, but search their hearts for guidance. Sometimes just saying no to a panhandler is the best way to help; but I decided not to judge and if I had spare change, to share it.

    I know the littlest acts of kindness living on the streets do mean a lot to homeless, from my time on the streets.

    If the person who sent the email knew that 1/3 of our homeless are veterans of war, they are former lawyers, business owners, home owners and children who ran away from abusive homes (both physical and sexual) getting caught up in a life they were ill prepared to deal with, would that make a difference in willingness to help.

    Mental illness also accounts for the large numbers of those unable to put a roof over their heads; telling them “just get a job” is not an option. Many homeless do work; but the money does not buy affordable housing. This is also true of seniors on a fixed income.

    The odd thing to me, is people do not mind making rich people richer, foot the cost for war, then balk with helping those who have not even the basic shelter.

  4. A Grandmother says:

    Well written !

  5. lina says:

    You only gave one reason for helping the homeless, which is it’s the right and moral thing to do. The other paragraphs talk about the possibilities (or ways; I couldn’t think of a better word) that you would end up as a homeless: a mother with dependent children, a senior, a jobless husband, a veteran. I wish you would say more about the reasons.

  6. Sam says:

    If God felt that it was the right thing to do to help the homeless, perhaps he should do it himself. Like make houses miraculously appear in parks.

    • michael says:

      Sam,
      I’ve written a post in response to your comment.
      You can find it at: A Need For Constructive Dialogue

    • Dylan says:

      Sam, my God does not have to make anything just appear. We were put on this earth to go and make disciples of all nations, not all disciples that have homes. The searpent tempted God to make water appear when he was thirsty and food appear when he was hungry, but even though he has power to, maybe He is giving YOU the opportunity to share him with the homeless individual. I believe that WE AS A COUNTRY should help the homeless.

      • Pillar says:

        Yes! I agree Dylan! Some people are ignorant of who God actually is and what we are placed here for, well said!

    • Johnathan says:

      Sam God doesn’t do everything for us just because we think its the right thing to do, or else there would no problems in the world. Next time think before you write.

  7. lisa says:

    how do you expect us to help them?
    what do we do, and how will that help?

    • michael says:

      Lisa,

      The first step in helping the homeless is to recognize that they are people just like you and I.

      As for how you personally can help the homeless – I suggest that you contact your local area homeless shelter and offer to volunteer some of your time. That might provide you with further insight into some ways in which you can help.

      – m -

    • Johnathan says:

      Lisa: f*****g give the damn homeless man on the street a few bucks ( what I expect you to do and what to do) so he doesn’t have to starve to death (and thats how it will help)!!!!!

  8. Bryan says:

    I strongly agree and disagree with helping the homeless. I may only be 16 years old and in high school but when i hear “oh just give the homeless a house or lets help the homeless or give them are money” well no deserves a house for free and there isn’t alot we can do to help the homeless when half the world can barley help them selfs, and giving the homeless money isn’t going to help that much cause at the end of the day there just going to need more. Another thing is alot of homeless don’t even deserve are help since they are hooked on drugs. But a good way to help the homeless is to talk to them see if there a good person and and not hooked on drugs and that if you got space at your house help them get on there feet. Cause in the end we’re all human and treat others as you would want them to treat you, and every persons help matters.

  9. Help the homeless says:

    I 100% agree with Bryan.

  10. Bryan says:

    I agree with Lisa but i do think that giving the homless money isn’t right cause at the end of the day they just need more. and i may only be 16 but i know that no one deserves a free house. But a good way to help the homeless is to talk to them get to see if there a good person if you got space at your house help get the homeless on there feet.

    • Sunny says:

      To classify the homeless as “homeless” is wrong. These people are human beings who can feel the same range of emotion and have the same potential as us. It is because we are so absorbed in our constant search of pleasure and entertainment we have forgotten the hardships life can deal. Because we are so distanced from what they feel we have come to see them as a different race. To give them spare change and whats left of our daily consumption is Wrong. In order in help these people we need to see them as equal to us. We need to help them as we would help a “normal” person. We need to genuinely care. Because in reality, you and me can just as easily slip through the cracks.

      • Benjamin says:

        To classify people who are homeless as homeless is to state a fact. I would agree that attaching negative connotations to ‘homeless’ is wrong, but there is nothing inherently wrong about referring to someone who does not have a home as ‘homeless’. Only when ‘homeless’ is used to devalue or excluded people who are homeless from their humanity does it seem wrong.

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