Thoughts on “The Homeless”

I have three friends and neighbors here in Raleigh who happen to be without homes–Ricky, Ray, and Vernon. They’ve formed a kind of intentional(/necessary) community in a secluded spot of nearby woods where state agencies and local law enforcement won’t harass them. When I can we go out for lunch, or talk about the weather (a pretty vital topic for them), or I give them back issues of magazines I’ve written for.

Recently, I’ve joined a homelessness coalition on Facebook. It’s pretty popular, with over 500 members. Many of them, though, seem to be calculatingly indifferent to the problems faced by many of our nation’s homeless. They say “Trying to help these people is all well and good, but alot of them are @$$holes and just plain crazy.” Here’s what I said on a public forum today in response:

Yep, the mentally unstable homeless population exploded once Reagan closed down state-sponsored mental asylums in the 1980s…the proud tradition continues! The point is, we’re all connected–our bright shiny members of society and the ones we’d just rather forget about. It’s easy to love the lovable and those who ‘know their place,’ but what happens when we want to serve and we’re *treated* like servants? This is the real test of our spiritual/political will. Let’s dive in and get uncomfortable…

“Homeless Christ” Copyright © 2005 Deb Hoeffner, Used with permission.

9 Responses to “Thoughts on “The Homeless””

  1. 1 matt December 2, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Mike, good post. I too encounter, the ‘homeless people are crazy’ or ‘man, they’re all drunks’. I respond with ‘so?’. I agree, we must take a servants heart and embrace Matthew 25.
    peace and grace.
    your chiptole-lovin, facebook friend,

  2. 2 brotherjohnny December 2, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    The well do not need a physician.

  3. 3 Kendra December 5, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    It is my experience that each of these people have a story. Considering those of us who have homes, stable jobs, etc… have not walked in their shoes…is it up to us to judge?

    So often, people choose to only see the surface of the “problem”(fruit), when in all reality – these people who have issues – whether it be homelessness, hunger, or mental illness generally have roots. Isn’t it our higher calling as believers to share the gospel in word and deep – and then – as Jesus commanded us after raising Lazarus from the dead – we should loose the graveclothes – that they might be able to walk in freedom. Generally this begins in simple ways – also as Jesus modeled – by offering food, clothing, shelter, etc… from there – our tangible evidence of love will prayerfully plant seeds of trust – that those who are less fortunate than ourselves might be able to grasp ahold of this indescribable love we desire to share.

  4. 4 Mike December 6, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    Thanks for your example.

    I need to do more.

  5. 5 Christopher February 16, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Unless we can deal with the heart of the problem the most we can offer is love in simple ways (like you described above). I commend people for their acts of kindness, it is good and proper religion. For me, if I really want to do something about the problem I need to work on the solution which is the kingdom of God on earth, the only environment whereby the nations can be healed and provide homes for all of God’s creation. Alone I can do very little but a people together under Christ the head can make visible the environment our Father always intended for mankind to live in. Without community we are all homeless in some form or another.

  6. 6 zoecarnate February 20, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Chris, I agree with you…I think. In general, I think American evangelicalism has been pretty entrenched in individualism, which has serious reprecussions for both church life and our most pressing social needs. As a Deep Shift newsletter I received this morning states,

    “If all of our songs say, “Jesus, hold me; Jesus, forgive me; Jesus, bless me,” that does a great job of deepening our personal connection to Jesus on one level, but it can make us pretty self-centered. In the words of a friend of mine, we find ourselves congratulating God on what a great job God is doing at meeting our personal needs.” Which is a great moment to plug Songs For A Revolution of Hope, which is the best worship album I’ve heard in years and years.

    So anyway…my ambivalence toward your statement largely stems from my not being sure how to unpack it. If by “the Kingdom of God on earth” you mean God’s beloved community spreading like yeast through dough on every level of existence, from ideas to business to public policy to our spending habits and choices, than I whole-heartedly agree. But if you mean a form of “we need to save individual souls (or help individuals recognize God’s love for them, union with them, etc…) I’m afraid I have to say that this is only part of the story. Certainly, my relationship with Jesus is personal and in the context of the church; but (to paraphrase Jim Wallis) it’s never private. My own conceptions of what ‘church’ is and can mean have, admittedly, been expanding exponentially.

  7. 7 Christopher February 22, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    You say “If by “the Kingdom of God on earth” you mean God’s beloved community spreading like yeast through dough on every level of existence, from ideas to business to public policy to our spending habits and choices, than I whole-heartedly agree.” Yes! I guess the picture or thought I have been having lately for the kingdom of God is God’s garden. A garden that He gave Adam to spread over the whole earth. The garden constituents an environment for all that are in it to share the same soil and express life. In the simplest terms an environment would be described as a people needing each other and Christ to live and express life on this planet (mutuality). People operating together as persons with God not as individuals. No hierarchy, no lording it over, no dictating, simply together in fellowship (dialog for building together- not monologue’s for putting upon).

  8. 8 JEF October 10, 2009 at 3:11 am

    Just a small voice coming from one who has been blessed with health, both mental and physical.

    I’m not sure we will ever find a cure for mental illness but we certainly need to get back to caring for those who have it because they need us. If one is physically disabled/challenged there is a tremendous support offered for them through government agencies, service groups and even public support. But there seems little or no help for those struggling with mental issues. It is not by choice but somehow they have been destined to struggle with an illness that is viewed even worse than AIDS/HIV. Because we don’t speak out on their behalf, we have abandoned them to a horrible life of shame and suffering.

    One of my children suffers with depression. Each day is a challenge and it is a miracle that they have a job, or should I say jobs. The job industry does not understand the complexity of what my child endures from day to day and the government lacks the compassion to help. My child could have become homeless, but is fortunate at this time and being looked after. Their lives are in our hands to make sure they have quality of life. No one, No one should be without food, shelter and the basics needs of life.

    I could go on but I’m sure you are aware of the magnitude of the situation. I am a Christian and believe that Jesus wants us to follow his command to love our neighbour (I’m Canadian) which means looking after them not just saying you love them.

    Speak out! Tell those who hold political office of their responsibility to all of God’s children and that we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters!!!!
    Blessings my friends and may you never find ourselves without food, shelter clothing and someone who watches out for you.

  1. 1 Further Thoughts on “The Homeless”: Systemic Social Change through God’s Beneficent Reign « zoecarnate Trackback on February 20, 2008 at 9:36 pm

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