Back in October I wrote several posts about poverty and homelessness. In them I shared numbers and statistics about poverty around the world as well as in the United States. Using some very helpful fact sheets from the National Coalition for the Homeless, I tried to help us understand who the impoverished and homeless in America are.
As followers of Christ we know that we have a responsibility under God to bestow mercy on those less fortunate than we are and seek to meet their needs in any way that we can. In serving the poor, homeless, and margainalized, we are serving Christ Himself.
But, what can we personally do to help end poverty and homelessness, or at least help lessen its effect and impact in the lives of people?
Individually and collectively, we can support and vote for legislation at the local, state, and national levels that seek to bring relief to the poor and help them better themselves, legislation that addresses public services such as medical care, childcare, food and shelter needs, adult education, and job training.
On a more personal note, each of can be the hands and feet of Christ in three different ways.
Educate yourself and others about poverty and homelesseness, their causes and effects on people and society, and the poverty and homeless population and needs in your community.
Participate in meeting needs by:
- Being a friend
- Working at a shelter and doing clerical work, serving food, washing dishes, sorting and distributing clothes, and providing transporation to those needing rides to job interviews
- Joining a volunteer construction crew and helping repair houses and shelters
- Offering your technical and professional skills to assist in job training programs in your community
- Giving an unemployed worker a job if you are an employer
- Working with the children of the poor and homeless and conducting after school programs, play days, and field trips
- Contributing good, clean clothes and household and kitchen items to those on need
Advocate for the poor and homeless. As the NHC says,
Advocacy is critical to creating the systemic changes needed to end (poverty) homelessness. Advocacy means working with people experiencing (poverty) homelessness to bring about positive changes in policies and programs on the local, state, and federal levels. It means wotking with various sectors of the community (e.g., city/county officials, members of Congress, direct service providers, and the business community) to develop workable startegies for responding to (poverty) homelessness. It also means changing your language and behaviors in small ways that may contribute to larger changes in the way people experiencing (poverty) homelessness are seen and treated in our society.”
The number of the impoverished and homeless in our nation is great and their needs are immense and seemingly overwhelming. With the current economic situation in our nation and world, and the promise that it is going to get worse, the number of the poor and homeless is going to increase and the needs to meet will continue to grow in number and complexity.
So, its time for us to recognize the need and our responsibility to address it. It is time to educate ourselves and others about poverty and homelessness, to participate in meeting people’s needs, and to advocate for those in need.