Last month, St. Johns Christian Church hosted a workshop to help those of us who have compassion for the homeless people we see around us but don't know how to help most effectively (you can watch that workshop in its entirety here). There were dozens of takeaways that I could talk about right now, but the most fascinating and eye-opening moment came when the leader asked us, "What does a homeless person most need?"
Many of us said things like "food," "shelter," and "money." The leader said that yes, those are all needs, but there is one need that is far above all others. The thing a homeless person most needs is a support network. He mentioned that the lack of a support network is the reason people become homeless, and the reason they stay homeless.
I mentioned this recently while I was teaching a class at a local drug and alcohol rehab center. Multiple hands went up immediately, and people began to share some incredible stories. While these stories were wildly different from one another, almost every story had the same two elements:
1. I had no support from anybody
2. When I found this place, I was welcomed and accepted. People talked to me as a person.
Friendship is powerful. Support is powerful. Support keeps people off of the streets. Support helps people with crippling drug habits. Support brings people hope.
I wonder how many times we've thought to give money or food to homeless people as a quick fix, when what is really needed is support. Do we throw food and money toward the needy to "make the problem go away?" Could we perhaps give a listening ear?
If I learned someone's name and talked with him or her whenever he or she was around, it could possibly be a great help.
People need to be seen as people, not as a nuisance.
Let us lend our support.