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A recent study was was released showing the increase in homelessness in St. John’s, NL. On one day, in particular, there were at least 166 who did not have a place to call home. In a city the size of St. John’s, they are ‘sobering numbers’.  This post is based on my experience in Toronto, but the truth of our responsibility remains.

I ask myself: what would become of me if I received a series of unfortunate events? What if I lost my job…couldn’t make my financial obligations…lost my home and car…and my life completely changed? What would happen?

More than likely, I would have options. With so many family members and friends, that care about me, they wouldn’t let unfortunate events spiral out of control. I have options.

But what if I didn’t have options? What would happen then?

When we lived in Toronto, we had the privilege to take part in a downtown street ministry. I learned quite a bit that day about people, and how we treat other people.

We went downtown, early in the morning, with paper bags filled with breakfast foods and handed them out to those who could use a meal.
I don’t think I really understood homelessness until that day. I learned three basic things:

1. Acknowledge People

We asked one guy if there was one thing he wishes he could tell everyone around him. He said, “That we’re people…” We can't forget we are all people; only some of us were given different options. #homelessness Click To Tweet

Everyone has a name; no one likes to be ignored.

During the day I actually witnessed two young men (in business suit attire) obnoxiously speak to a guy on the street and spit in his direction. Why would that be alright? …I was actually embarrassed for them.

We may not spit at someone, but willingly ignoring someone sitting on the side of the street can be just as bad. We can’t forget we are all people; only some of us were given different options.

2. Befriend People

We met a guy who was known as “the Captain.” He was covered head to toe in Montreal Canadiens clothing. Even his red boxers had the symbol. (We know that cause he showed us.) Being a Habs fan myself (in Toronto) that was enough the break the ice. We chatted for a while, and he told us part of his story.It’s time we start to befriend those who have few options. #homelessness Click To Tweet

It’s amazing the stories people love to share — all we have to do is listen. Perhaps the stories seem far fetched, or unrealistic, or maybe just not true, that’s not the point. The point is — a listening ear is a friendly ear.

It’s time we start to befriend those who have few options.

3. Show Compassion

There are many needs represented, and I understand we often can’t meet the larger ones (ie. Buying someone a home), but there might be an immediate need that we can meet. Almost everyone can buy someone a coffee or lunch. We can acknowledge and befriend people by simply caring and meeting a tangible need.

It’s possible we may be able to help in other social ways as well. For example, when someone asks our local church for some help, we provide a food voucher (when able) and I normally extend the offer of helping them with their resume, or personal budget as well. I’m very rarely taken up on the offer, but the offer is still made. When people without options help other people, those of us with plenty of options, have no excuse. Click To Tweet

Think about this: the homeless are often more compassionate than those who have more than enough. While we were walking in Toronto, we came across a guy who asked if we had any lunch bags as well. We told him we only had breakfast ones, but he was more than welcome to have a second for his lunch. His response was beautiful: “No, no, you give that to another person, I was just wondering.”

When people without options help other people, those of us with plenty of options, have no excuse.

Final thoughts…

We have the responsibility to help those without options. As Christians, the responsibility isn’t even an option, it’s our calling. A calling that Jesus clearly modeled in his ministry and expected His followers to do the same. His ministry began with this statement:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18).

Let’s challenge ourselves — the next time we see someone without options, acknowledge them, befriend them, and show compassion.

After all, we are all people.

Your turn…

How have you helped someone without options? Feel free to comment with some great ways we can help others.

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