Helping The Homeless
People virtue signal all kinds of topics on the internet but one of the most popular is about homelessness and the virtue signaling is most often pointed criticism of how churches are morally inferior and the virtue signaler is morally superior. Memes to the effect of “There are 200,000 homeless people and 350,000 churches so see how evil/selfish/hypocritical churches are!” proliferate among people who have never attempted to systematically help the homeless.
Twice I have been a part of church-based programs to help the homeless, in two different states. Rather than virtue signal let me tell you what my experience was and what I learned:
The first program was pretty complete. The church would provide a homeless person with a room in a home (the home of a church member by the way, how many of these virtue signalers are willing to invite the homeless into their homes?), new clothing, medical care, and find them a job. If I were homeless, and probably everyone reading this post if they were homeless, would be all over this offer. A place to live, medical care, new clothes, a job? Are you kidding? Who would not jump on that rather than living on the streets?
Very few homeless people accepted this offer though they streamed into the church most everyday asking for cash. Why would they reject this offer? Here were the requirements the church placed on the person who would accept this offer: you had to behave properly particularly in the home they placed you in, you had to attend a narcotics or alcohol recovery program (the church itself ran these programs but you were free to attend a different legitimate program if you preferred), you had to show up for work on time everyday you were scheduled and actually work, and you had to re-establish a functional connection with a member of your family. You had to be accountable.
Most of the homeless people who came in to the church simply demanded cash. The church was not going to do that. Those who were seemingly willing to go down the path that the church required most commonly refused the offer by rejecting the requirement that they re-establish connection with a family member. For people such as myself this was a shocker. I would presume that most people would think as I do and see re-establishing contact with a family member as the easiest requirement to meet – but that was not the case. For those who went far enough down the path that I was able to talk to their family the reason why this was a stumbling block was obvious – I heard the same stories over and over: “He stole from me, he assaulted me, he sexually assaulted me.”
The short story is obvious – these people were not sleeping on their moms couch or living in their brothers garage or living in their sisters camper simply because these family members could not afford to have them around for the sake of their own safety. As much as these folks may have loved or cared for the homeless person the concept of providing them shelter or even being in proximity or having any relationship was a non-starter due to the behavior of the homeless person. Be reminded – these are the homeless people that were willing to allow us to talk to their family members. Who knows what horror stories existed with those who flat out refused to give us the information we needed to talk to their parents or siblings or children? We heard the same statements over and over from homeless people who would not let us talk to their family – “They are all a bunch of liars, no reason to talk to them!” It was a distinct pattern.
There were people who came in to the church that were homeless as a result of circumstance and not so much anti-social behavior. These people were fairly easy to detect right off because they weren’t the people that were simply demanding cash but typically had a plan and needed assistance in executing that plan. That plan was usually along the lines of “My mom will let me live at her house but I need a ride/bus ticket/etc. to make that happen.” In those cases we would most often talk to mom or whomever and then buy them lunch and give them a ride to moms house or take them to the bus station and buy a bus ticket to Omaha or where ever and see that they got on the bus to Omaha. The people who were homeless due to circumstance were easy and it was almost always straightforward. They had zero problem with you talking to their family or friends and wanted us to coordinate with their family or friends and the family or friends were eager to help and thankful for our assistance in those cases. The people who were homeless due to circumstance were often embarrassed by their situation but they were not attempting to hide their friends and families from us.
The other program to help the homeless was more narrow in its’ focus – simply place homeless people in abandoned HUD homes on a temporary basis. This program lasted exactly one weekend, where after much bureaucratic engagement we were able to secure a HUD home and placed three homeless people in that three bedroom two bath suburban home on a Friday. By Monday that three bedroom two bath suburban home was stripped – everything that could be sold was removed from the home and gone. Plumbing, electrical, appliances – you name it. Down to the drywall.
My point to this post is that virtue signaling your superiority when you have never been in the trenches of trying to help these people demonstrates your shallowness in understanding the problem. If it was simply a matter of matching people up with beds then the problem could and would be solved by tomorrow – but that is not the problem. The problem is addiction and mental illness and most of all the destruction of family relationships and sometimes just some truly atrocious human beings who pose a grave physical threat to other human beings. It is trite to say “get them into a program” because there are an abundance of programs for them to engage in – there is no lack of programs and there is no lack of beds.
Beds and programs are not the problem.