Is it just me, or does it seem that we see more people in need this time of year? People are poor and homeless all year long, but in the winter months, their needs are more prevalent … or maybe we’re just more aware. Have you ever thought about what it’s like to have no roof over your head, no hot running water to take a shower each day, or have to wear the same dirty clothes day after day?
In one novel I’m working on, the male protagonist, Clayton, oversees a homeless shelter. It’s not an ordinary shelter, but more like a home, a family. He and his parents treat the residents with dignity and express Christ’s love to them. They share meals together, celebrate Christmas together, and cheer one another on when they reach a milestone like securing a job. I don’t know if a shelter like that exists in our culture, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did?
Statistics show that on a single night in January 2019, the number of men, women, and children in America experiencing homelessness was 564,000.
These numbers are staggering, yet what do we do about it? Do we go on with our comfortable lives and ignore the issue? Pretend it doesn’t exist because it’s too messy to get involved?
What is God’s heart concerning the homeless?
“Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:10
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” Psalm 82:3
“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Psalm 140:12
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” Galatians 2:10
I live in Chesapeake, Virginia, and each winter, our city houses the homeless in various churches throughout the area for a week at a time through the Chesapeake Area Shelter Team (CAST).
The churches provide dinner and breakfast each day, and the guests leave each morning with a bag lunch. Some churches offer haircuts, a clothing and shoe closet, showers, and more. Volunteers serve the visitors, play games with them, and spend time getting to know them.
Our church meets in a public school and doesn’t own our own building so we’re not able to host the homeless but we’ve had opportunities to partner with others and provide meals, overnight security, and lunches. We even hosted a service with worship and a message one year on Christmas morning and gave out gifts. If you’ve ever taken part in a missions project or outreach intending to bless others, then you know the greatest blessing is returned to us through our giving.
Does your city have a similar program you can get involved in? If not, how can you be the hands and feet of Jesus this season and offer hope to the homeless?
Here are a few ideas:
- Pack gallon-size bags with a pair of socks, toothbrush/toothpaste, snack crackers, trail mix, a water bottle, $5 gift card to fast food, etc. and keep in your car to give out when you see a homeless person on the street.
- Make bag lunches with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, water bottles, and cookies and take them to an area of town where homeless people congregate. Include a gospel tract in the bag. Don’t go alone, but join with a group for this project. (Our ladies’ bible study did this one year and had the privilege of leading one gentleman to the Lord).
- Volunteer at your local homeless shelter.
- When you see a homeless person, don’t ignore them. Look them in the eye, smile, have a conversation. Can you imagine the loneliness associated with homelessness?
- Donate to a nonprofit organization that meets the needs of the homeless.
- Watch the movie “Same Kind of Different As Me” for inspiration on serving the homeless.
These are just a few thoughts. I’m sure you can come up with others. You can search YouTube and find multiple videos about people making a difference in the homeless community through showers on wheels, haircuts, clothes, and food.
Watch these two short videos to help ignite your compassion.
While we may not provide showers and haircuts for the homeless, we can all do something. What will you do to offer hope to the homeless people God brings across your path this winter? Or in the future? Share your ideas so we can all gain inspiration.
Join the conversation. Have you served the homeless in some way? How were you blessed through being a blessing? Maybe you went through a rough patch and someone reached out and blessed you. Would you be willing to share how an act of kindness sparked hope in you when you felt hopeless?