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  #1  
Old 11-29-2022, 8:36 AM
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Question The church's responsibility for the homeless

Long ago, the church was America's welfare organization. It was the nation's unemployment agency. America's soup kitchen and bread line. Then, government took those over and... here we are. Today, homelessness is at a crisis level. What is the responsibility of the church to address it? Government is incompetent. Assume it's up to us. What do you and I do?

I ask this question out of frustration. The church I attend has many homeless people in the neighborhood. Some Sunday mornings, they disrupt services. They leave trash all over the property. They poop in our planters and urinate on the walkways. They build fires next to wooden doors at night to keep warm. They damage the property and break windows. We have had break ins and grafitti.

One broke into a metal storage shed, emptied it and moved in with an old mattress, blankets and junk. She was building fires outside to keep warm, next to our children's classrooms. Pastor said he draws the line at the risk of burning everything down. Yesterday, an elder and I tore down the old metal shed. We filled up a large green trash dumpster with the trash, cigarette butts, cans of starter fluid (they get high off of it) and bloody rags. It was like cleaning up a homeless camp. The homeless woman returned, gathered up some things and left.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

How is the modern church to address the homeless problem? I've thought of planting fruit trees around the property to generate free food for them in season. It's just one idea. We must love them as Christ did. He died for them. Do we put up signs that say, "PRIVATE PROPERTY! NO TRESSPASSING!"? Not a very nice picture for a church. How does the church respond? We need ideas.

“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17
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Old 11-29-2022, 9:21 AM
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i'd put up a "no trespassing" sign. protect the house of worship and be cleaned.

learning from boaz and ruth story; the food wasn't handed out to them but had to gather them for themselves. feeding homeless without making them do some yard work for example is just making them more lazy and dependent on handouts.
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Old 11-29-2022, 9:40 AM
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It’s a tough question. The nature of poverty in the US has certainly changed a lot from the time of the first century AD.

Most of human history has been in times of scarcity where those who could not work (the sick, the young, the aged) were almost certainly going to starve or die of exposure without help from others and those who could work were barely getting by in the level of subsistence farming.

In the modern western world this has greatly changed. Few are farmers because mechanization and the green revolution has made farming easier than ever. In our age of plenty, many (obviously not all) homeless are indolent or addicted to mind altering drugs and manage to survive on the excessive refuse of our society. Few are on the street because they are blind or lame.

I point this out because the church’s aims and acts in helping the poor need to change with the times. Giving money to a widow in the first century would buy her bread but giving a $20 to a meth addict is likely buying them more poison.

Letting a medieval beggar sleep in the knave of a church in winter would be giving them warmth and a chance to live but letting a drug addict sleep in your modern church’s shed is potentially risking the lives of the church’s children.

I think we are still required to help the poor in modern times but we have to adapt how we do it. Supporting organizations at the community level is probably the best way. I think individual support would also be good but it would require a genuine relationship with the people being helped and some way of maintaining personal responsibility to prevent risk to others (some sort of halfway house type situation).
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Old 11-30-2022, 9:18 PM
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If a church wants to start a shelter or a rehab center, that's one thing, but I would separate the infrastructure from the worship/Sunday school buildings.

There's no benefit to the homeless people hanging around church - human waste, drug paraphernalia, crime, etc. Most of them are crazy.

Our church is in LA, and every Sunday when we walk from the parking lot to the sanctuary, I have to tell my kids, "Watch out for poo." It's so gross seeing a pile of crap on the sidewalk or smelling the stench of urine.

I would call the authorities to take the homeless to a shelter.
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Old 11-30-2022, 10:37 PM
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You often can't help the people who need help the most. Help those you can and pray for those you can't.
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Old 11-30-2022, 11:02 PM
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past 30 years USA has paid over 15 trillion, give or take a trillion...you think democrats will stop the checks. Losing a trillions by helping people. lol, just not what democrats do. and don't ever fool yourself
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Old 12-01-2022, 9:52 AM
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There's very little in the way of homelessness that we need to assist with. The US doesn't have a homeless problem whatsoever.

They do have a junkie problem, that masquerades as a homeless problem. These are people that don't want help, they want handouts. They don't want a safety net, they want a hammock. In these cases, Pauls advice that "If you don't work, you don't eat" applies.
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Old 12-01-2022, 10:01 AM
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Kokopelli- I think I usually argue with you on some things but here, I applaud the question. I won't answer it because I don't attend church anymore. I'll leave it up to those who do. But I think the fact that you are thinking about it and talking about it and engaged in it says a lot. Kudos!
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Old 12-01-2022, 11:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kokopelli View Post
Long ago, the church was America's welfare organization. It was the nation's unemployment agency. America's soup kitchen and bread line. Then, government took those over and... here we are. Today, homelessness is at a crisis level. What is the responsibility of the church to address it? Government is incompetent. Assume it's up to us. What do you and I do?

I ask this question out of frustration. The church I attend has many homeless people in the neighborhood. Some Sunday mornings, they disrupt services. They leave trash all over the property. They poop in our planters and urinate on the walkways. They build fires next to wooden doors at night to keep warm. They damage the property and break windows. We have had break ins and grafitti.

One broke into a metal storage shed, emptied it and moved in with an old mattress, blankets and junk. She was building fires outside to keep warm, next to our children's classrooms. Pastor said he draws the line at the risk of burning everything down. Yesterday, an elder and I tore down the old metal shed. We filled up a large green trash dumpster with the trash, cigarette butts, cans of starter fluid (they get high off of it) and bloody rags. It was like cleaning up a homeless camp. The homeless woman returned, gathered up some things and left.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

How is the modern church to address the homeless problem? I've thought of planting fruit trees around the property to generate free food for them in season. It's just one idea. We must love them as Christ did. He died for them. Do we put up signs that say, "PRIVATE PROPERTY! NO TRESSPASSING!"? Not a very nice picture for a church. How does the church respond? We need ideas.

“Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19:17

Kokopelli,


You have given the answer of course.


God is love. Perhaps we should consider how God showed that love. God's love had a cost. Should we not strive to emulate what God has done for us? Consider this. After our Lord's sacrifice of love did everyone respond accordingly? Some will be saved and some will be lost. Our job is to increase the number that are saved.



The path we take is not an easy one.
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Old 12-01-2022, 12:52 PM
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OP, your church is acting like a codependent parent. I recommend that your church take the role of a loving but stern parent. The homeless in your area need to understand how to give respect where it is due. They are abusing your church's property.

Unfortunately, our governments both federal and local have usurped the role of the charitable church. They have given to the "homeless" with no return promise of the recipients to try to improve their lives. This has resulted in more irresponsibility. The whole problem is a dysfunctional mess. Behind all of this is Satan, laughing at the result.

My solution to this problem is one that will take a couple of decades. First, the church has to resist Satan. Next, we need to educate the people that we will only get more "homeless" as long as our governments give free handouts. The people need to change government and have them step out of being a charitable giver and return that role to churches, the local communities, and other citizen-funded charitable groups. These entities are in a better position to assess the true needs of those in need. As I stated this will take decades to put in place and for the "homeless" to adjust their behavior.

I use the word homeless, but in reality, most of these people are in their situation due to a lack of personal responsibility, which includes a large subset of alcoholics, drug abusers and those who refuse to try to help themselves.
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Old 12-01-2022, 1:30 PM
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Churches can't afford it. In the 50s and 60s most people went to church and kicked in their 10%. When a member fell on hard times they took care of them. In the 70s church membership dropped and they didn't have the extra money. Then .gov realized they could put a lot of money in their pockets middlemaning the welfare pot....... and that's where we're at today. Lot's of churches have food banks and clothing drives but those don't cost them anything since it's stuff donated by members.
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Old 12-01-2022, 2:26 PM
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Koko, you ask an excellent question and are on the right track. The homeless epidemic seems to be more severe than ever. One can argue that our government has instituted policies throughout the decades that have exacerbated the problem.

However, regardless of why we are here, the Bible is pretty clear in telling us to help the poor. These people, even the drug users, poor decision makers, and mentally ill, are all made in Christ’s image. We Christians do not get a free pass because “the Democrats caused this” or any other political stance.

Of course I am not condoning allowing transients to set fire to church outbuildings or allowing them to use planters as commodes.
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Old 12-01-2022, 3:57 PM
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The scriptures do not give a reason for the poor being the poor. Whether they are drug addicts, mentally ill, unemployed, suffering PTSD, lame or any number of things. The scriptures do tell us our responsibility in those verses above.

Yes. It ticks me off that they are destructive, irresponsible, stealing, messy and taking advantage of us. But there, but by the grace of God, go you or I.

I remember an old story about a couple looking for a place to spend the night. A man with a woman who was pregnant. But there was no room for them at the inn.
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Old 12-01-2022, 5:20 PM
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My wife’s church is now home to about 12 Ukrainian refugees. 2 families plus. The stay there at night and keep an eye on the place, shooing away tweekers and such.
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Old 12-01-2022, 7:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kokopelli View Post

I remember an old story about a couple looking for a place to spend the night. A man with a woman who was pregnant. But there was no room for them at the inn.
i think you went way too far to the left. Joseph, Mary and Jesus were not homeless, and if they were, they will not trash the place.

for the homeless you're trying to help, below is a good guidance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZapThyCat View Post

Pauls advice that "If you don't work, you don't eat" applies.
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Old 12-01-2022, 8:58 PM
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I remember an old story about a couple looking for a place to spend the night. A man with a woman who was pregnant. But there was no room for them at the inn.
you're not good with analogies are you.

Mary and Joseph weren't drug addicts and I doubt they would have taken a dump on someone's door step.
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Old 12-02-2022, 7:36 AM
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you're not good with analogies are you.

Mary and Joseph weren't drug addicts and I doubt they would have taken a dump on someone's door step.
How does the church you attend address homeless people on your property?
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Old 12-02-2022, 7:55 AM
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Bill, care to chime in here? I’d like to hear the perspective of a working pastor.
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Old 12-02-2022, 9:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kokopelli View Post
The scriptures do not give a reason for the poor being the poor. Whether they are drug addicts, mentally ill, unemployed, suffering PTSD, lame or any number of things. The scriptures do tell us our responsibility in those verses above.

Yes. It ticks me off that they are destructive, irresponsible, stealing, messy and taking advantage of us. But there, but by the grace of God, go you or I.

I remember an old story about a couple looking for a place to spend the night. A man with a woman who was pregnant. But there was no room for them at the inn.
We are certainly meant to help the poor but how they got there is extremely relevant in regards to how to utilize the resources God has given you to help them.

As I said, giving money to an old woman to buy food and giving money to an addict to help them kill themselves are not equally righteous acts. Being gracious does not preclude being prudent.

If you invite someone to live in your church and they steal the poor box, you’ve caused harm to the people that money was meant to help. If you invite someone who is an untreated schizophrenic and they harm a child from the church school, you have allowed harm to one of God’s little ones.

Our church supports halfway houses in downtown (which is where most homeless in the county are anyway). We don’t really have any in the affluent suburb the church is located in so that’s the best option for us. We have housed refugees from Syria and Afghanistan recently, however.
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Old 12-02-2022, 11:45 AM
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Jesus said the poor with always be with us. The question is who are the poor? I believe there are scriptures that identify widows and orphans as poor. Those who refuse to work when they are capable and those who are thieves, vandals, and grifters are unlikely to be categorized as poor. Alcohol and drug abuse are forms of sorcery that are also unlikely to be categorized as poor, however, if someone was sincere about overcoming the addiction to alcohol and drugs, I would be agreeable to helping them.
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Old 12-02-2022, 1:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Kokopelli View Post
How does the church you attend address homeless people on your property?
We had a homeless guy sleeping on the sidewalk. I witnessed the cops move them.
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Old 12-06-2022, 5:34 PM
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Jesus said the poor with always be with us. The question is who are the poor? I believe there are scriptures that identify widows and orphans as poor. Those who refuse to work when they are capable and those who are thieves, vandals, and grifters are unlikely to be categorized as poor. Alcohol and drug abuse are forms of sorcery that are also unlikely to be categorized as poor, however, if someone was sincere about overcoming the addiction to alcohol and drugs, I would be agreeable to helping them.
Well said.

The widows and the orphans are the first
If you ever work with the homeless you soon find out why they were called hobo's and bums.

Working in the street, you rarely meet homeless who are not
  • Addicted to drugs
  • Addicted to alcohol
  • Schizophrenic
  • Schizophrenic due to drug abuse.
Those four groups comprise about 95-97% of the homeless people on the street. It will appear more like 100% if you actually put rubber to the road and work with them.

As far as our duty, we can help those 4 categories all we want, until they are ready to be clean, or the police are actually arresting them again, there is not much that can be done.
Get involved in your community wherever that may be, volunteer at your local schools, at your local food kitchen, start your own ministry, if you see a need, don't wait for others to fill it.
As many of you know, not many in the church serve. Most only are there on Sunday and shelve God until the next Sunday
Get on your knees and pray for revival is the best we can do in this day and age.
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Old 12-06-2022, 9:15 PM
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If a church wants to start a shelter or a rehab center, that's one thing, but I would separate the infrastructure from the worship/Sunday school buildings.

There's no benefit to the homeless people hanging around church - human waste, drug paraphernalia, crime, etc. Most of them are crazy. [...]
I don't think there is wisdom in trying to help people who don't want to be helped, unless that "help" allows them to continue their lifestyle. It's like giving cash to a panhandler; how much of the cash that people give to panhandlers is used to fuel their addictions? That is poor stewardship, not to mention, unloving.

Calgunners in the southern California area might be familiar with the "camp" that took root down in the Santa Ana River, circa 2016-2018, give or take. More than a few local churches were sending people down to give away camping gear, food, you name it. It isn't an exaggeration to say that some of the people camped out down in the river area-- many generating cashflow by growing and selling dope-- had better camping gear than tax-paying middle-class folks.

Having ridden through their encampments for a couple of years by bicycle, I saw a lot of people in the camps who looked pretty able-bodied to me. They could probably work, earn some legitimate money. But a casual inspection suggested that they were totally fine getting high and living with as little responsibility as possible. There are a good number of shelters around Orange County, with plenty of beds, and lots of other assistance for people who want to get off the streets. But shelters have rules-- can't take drugs/be high, etc.-- and it seemed like the majority of the people camped out in/around the Santa Ana River channel had no interest in following rules.

A pastor's wife who had worked to feed the homeless for many years told me that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Effective ministry is built up over a long period of time, people have to get to know and trust each other to the extent it is necessary. It is a profoundly difficult problem to solve.

Quote:
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How does the church you attend address homeless people on your property?
The church I attend used to have a center on the church campus that distributed food, clothing, and limited assistance to the needy who showed up there. They collected donations from the congregation, and distributed it through a crew of volunteers who handled the distribution. The hours of operation were a compromise between normal activities around the church and what the volunteers and staff could cover. For example, they were not open on Sunday morning.

I had no direct experience with the distribution, but a person who had served a long time in that ministry explained that they were careful to limit the assistance they provided to discourage abuse. In other words, if someone comes and asks for food, they provide a certain amount and keep a record of who got what. If someone asks for money, they check into their story to the extent possible and might provide some money, but make it clear this is a one-time thing, don't come back weekly or monthly expecting to get money.

Unfortunately some staffing changes, C19, and other issues caused this ministry to largely cease.

There were complaints from the neighbors to the city council/city government related to this ministry. Pretty much any time that above-and-beyond efforts were made to provide short-term shelter for homeless, like allowing people to sleep, supervised, in rooms used mainly on Sundays, the neighbors would complain about it.

Most of the volunteers who helped were older, retired/close to retired people. Younger families, not so much. One of the pastors was formerly the director of a rescue mission; he tried getting more people involved, but from what I know was unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, including poor relations with the older demographic in the congregation.
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