How can we do good for the homeless population without enabling them? Tough question. Is there an answer to be had?
Homeless Population in California
I live on the left coast. California has a crisis on its hands.
Consider these numbers – California has a homeless population of over 150,000.
That’s about 37 people for every 10,000 in the state. I live in Sunnyvale, CA, launch pad for Silicon Valley. The population is 153,000. Equal to California’s homeless population. What if I and everybody else in my city had to sleep outside?
Homeless Population in the United States
In the US there are just under 20,000 cities, towns and villages. The homeless population in California alone is LARGER than 99.2% of cities in the US. Really? Really.
There are more homeless in California than there are in 40+ countries on the United Nations list of countries.
More homeless than people in the US Virgin Islands.
If all the California homeless were invited to live in Greenland, the population of that island on Donald Trump’s Christmas list for America would quadruple!
Half of the state capitals in the US have fewer people than California has homeless people.
- Albany, NY – all homeless.
- Topeka, KS – all homeless.
- Salem, OR – all homeless.
- Lansing, MI – all homeless.
COMBINED populations of:
Dover, DE + Juneau, AK + Helena, MT + Frankfort, KY + Augusta, ME + Pierre, SD + Montpelier, VT =
LESS THAN California’s homeless population.
Homeless Population in Canada
There are more homeless in California than there are in all of Prince Edward Island. More homeless than there are people in Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon COMBINED.
Perhaps I made my point.
3 QUESTIONS we ask Approaching a Homeless Person
- How do we do good by this population?
- Do we show kindness?
- When/if we do good to them, are we actually serving them or enabling them?
True Story: I saw a homeless guy standing at a corner, 4-5 cars ahead of me at a red light. An arm came out the driver’s side window and I could see green. The person standing on the corner took a step towards the car, stopped, reached in his pocket to pull out his cell phone and raised it to his ear. After that, he waved off the protruding arm. Yeah. No kidding.
Another True Story: Outside the door to the coffee shop where I am sitting is a homeless fellow who has exposed himself from the waist down and his sitting, lying on the ground with his hand out.
How Do You tell the Truly Needy Homeless Person?
One person is in obvious need. The other person is highly suspect, though not at initial glance.
Not a few homeless venture in out of the cold at this coffee shop where I sit and sleep in leather chairs or at a table. The other day I saw a woman cautiously approach a homeless man who was slouched over in slumber. She placed a meal on his table and quietly left. Did she do good?
Now there are several more homeless who gather in this same coffee shop throughout the week. They just sit. And wait. And more often than not, someone feeds them.
Is this a good thing?
How I solve the homeless handout problem for myself.
I have come to learn that there are enough services available that have been vetted and are trustworthy. I think it is better form for me to give my money to these organizations, many of them faith based, churches to be more exact and let them help out where/when they can, than for me to randomly give money or buy a meal for someone.
Gosh! I want to help. But then I don’t.
But then again, I do. Dang it!
Sometimes I can’t help myself
A couple of days ago I saw a woman come in with all her belongings in a pull cart. She sat and sat and sat and sat by herself in a booth for 4 people. As I walked by I noticed she was reading a Bible. I couldn’t help myself. I bought her a loaf of cheese bread at the counter and had it delivered to her anonymously.
Did I do good? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I guess I’ll ask myself this question if she brings her friends with her next time she comes. Or perhaps she’ll tell the there’s an easy mark at the coffee shop. Just take a Bible with you.
How about you? What do you think? When we help homeless, are we serving of enabling them?
Tell us in the comments.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Great question. Hard question, for sure. I’ve been told by an expert on homelessness (he works with the homeless in San Francisco) that virtually none of the people you see on street corners with signs and hands out are actually homeless. The homeless are too busy looking for or protecting a place to sleep to be out begging, he said.
A friend of mine (in Silicon Valley) hired a fellow with a sign that said “Will work for food.” The fellow showed up, did a good job (landscape maintenance), and got paid a really good wage in cash. He was asked to come back the next day but didn’t.
Two weeks later my friend saw the fellow back at his regular spot and asked him why he hadn’t come back to work. He said he could make more money standing there with his sign and it was easier than the landscape job.
As for helping those who are really homeless, churches and other organizations that are equipped to help can always use support themselves. I think that’s one of the best things we can do.
We can also, whether or not we give food or money, pray for people in real time. And we should do that (I should do that) more.
My brother is currently homeless. The hardest thing I’ve had to do was to tell him I can’t send cash. I will send groceries if he has an address to have them delivered to, to a friend, but no cash. He has lied repeatedly through the years. Most times I’ve help him with cash, I find out later that his excuse was a lie. He’s only happy when I “help” him, but I’ve come to realize, finally, that I was only enabling him. If I had said no years ago, maybe he would have handled his money better by now and wouldn’t be truly homeless today. He responded by sending a voice message yelling at me, by the 3rd message his speech was so slurred I could hardly understand what he was saying. I know he buys prescription pills. If he would prove he’s really trying to help himself by accepting some resource info I sent him, I would be more apt to believe his plight. My heart is heavy but I really feel I’m doing what’s best for him in the long run. I’m hoping he has finally decided to take responsibility for his actions and how he spends his money (no more pills, no more lottery tickets, etc.. ) He is 52, soon to be 53 yrs old. I have given to a homeless shelter local to him. I gave him their info but he refuses to go. It’s very cold in Erie. Please pray for my brother.