Stories from the news: Homelessness
She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:20)
**I know this is a tough topic and one most want to avoid - but as Christians, we are expected to be aware and do something about those in need, those less well off than ourselves and are about the interests of others. So do stop and have a read — think about incorporating these issues into your homeschooling and think about ways you can make a differences maybe through your church. Jesus didn't walk past those in need, He stopped and did something. We too need to follow in His foot steps. **
In a city with over eight million residents, accurately determining the number of homeless people is a daunting task. Each year, the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) rallies 3000 volunteers, who disperse throughout the five boroughs of New York City to do a headcount — a system that is often criticised by social service groups as inaccurate. But the federal government’s annual homelessness count, released in November, confirmed what many New Yorkers already feared — there was a visible increase in the number of people living on the streets, in the subway system and in shelters.
Despite a slight dip in the number of homeless individuals nationwide compared with the previous year, the count found 75,323 people, including both sheltered and unsheltered, were homeless in NYC. This figure accounts for 14 per cent of the nation’s total.
On any given night, there are more than 500,000 people experiencing homelessness in America. A quarter of them are children (source: News.com.au, 1st March 2016)
As you can see in the bar chart below —just over 1/5 million Americans are homeless at any one time. Look at the number of children and teens (45,205) — lost souls that have ended up on the streets for many different reasons. How about the 49, 933 veterans who have served the USA and now living rough. What about the number of families, entire families with no homes. Life is not rosy for all — some live in miserable conditions. This is what poverty looks like, its real and its happening now in 2016.
Homelessness is not a modern phenomenon, we even read about beggars in the bible. Homelessness is not isolated to poor countries, in fact its found in every nation on earth — in particular the most powerful and rich. Once upon-a-time you would have ended up in the poor house if you had became homeless and that was considered the worse place to be sent. Today the homeless live on the streets often invisible to those better off. Australia has its own problems with homelessness, just like the USA and governments here and elsewhere continue struggle to solve the problem of homelessness. Some people are very harsh about the homeless and cannot understand how it can happen and why they can’t simply pull themselves out of their situation (they have the view of “if I can live on very little money, why can’t they”). If only life was that simple for some.
Homelessness can be caused by many factors, including:
- Lack of affordable housing
- Poor physical or mental health
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Family and relationship breakdown
- Domestic violence
- Physical and/or sexual abuse
All these factors can cause a person to become homeless. They can also be one of the reasons why a person remains homeless. For example, drug and alcohol abuse can be both a cause and a result of domestic violence, mental illness or addictions or family instability.
But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)
Many Australians (and Americans) experience events in their life that may place them at risk of homelessness. It is estimated that around 44% of low-income households in Australia experience affordability issues due to rental stress (paying more than 30% of their gross income on rent), and around 1 in 6 women have experienced some form of domestic and family violence in their lifetime, putting them at risk of homelessness.
To give you an idea of housing stress in the USA — in 2013, 6.4 million "renter households" were struggling with the cost of living. When I read about women having to work to pay the bills, this is what I am talking about. These families are in poverty and they need every cent they can earn to pay the rent. We need to be more understanding about the struggles some families face. If they don't pay the rent — they become homeless. Just imagine what that must be like?
For those who have read my posts on domestic and family violence will know how serious the issue is and sadly one of the consequence of domestic violence is homelessness —33% of all clients in Australia (adults and children) who seek help at homeless services in Australia (84,774) have experienced family or domestic violence. Many of these people are women and children who are running from frightening home situations. This of course excludes those women seeking help at domestic violence refugees or staying with friends (making the figure much higher).
But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
As you walk through cities and look, really look you will see the homeless. I live in a very affluent city—high income, well educated, middle class and we have a problem with homelessness. I see it on the streets and outside the shopping centres but most people walk past and ignore the problem.
Poverty is still here in 2016 as it was in 1816. According to the latest statistics, 48.8 million Americans were living in poverty in 2013 and that isn't good news. Poverty (economic hardship) leads to poor educational outcomes, the inability to gain skilled employment, housing stress, poor diets lead to health issues in children and is associated with anxiety, depression, metal illness, martial difficulties etc.. One doesn't generally choose poverty and the side affects are not pleasant. And when living so close to the edge, falling into homelessness is never very far away.
Sadly poverty and homelessness sits side by side with vulgar displays of wealth. Just look at the amount of money being spent on the run up to the American election — billions of dollars wasted and just imagine what it could have been used for. How it could have changed lives for the better. It is obscene. Sadly too many are more interested in themselves to care about anyone else but as Christians we must look out for the interests of others.
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
As Christians we cannot sit back and be indifferent nor can we stick our heads in the sand and pretend it isn't happening. In fact we can't ignore this issue as we are commanded to . . . love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.(Mark 12:31) so we must act. And if we don't do anything and choose to shut our ears, well that isn't a good idea — Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard. (Proverbs 21:13).
So ladies we need to be more active — whilst our families may be a primary area of care, we also have other responsibilities including helping those less fortunate than ourselves. And if you have any doubts about this, just read Proverbs 31: 20 — its part of our Christian duty. In fact when you start to look through the bible, there are many verses on this very topic, so if its important to God, then its important to us.
There are many ways of helping the needy and homeless — not only those already homeless, but these at risk of homelessness.
- A food basket to someone in need, a casserole
- Helping pay for groceries (anonymously if possible)
- Volunteering at the local soup kitchen
- Offer to buy a hot drink and some food for some one on the street (my friend often buys bananas to give to those in her local shopping centre)
- Donate to a local charity that help the poor and homeless (perhaps raise money as part of your church)
- Keep a watch out for anyone in church that looks like they are struggling financially
- Gather up blankets and jumpers as winter approaches to give to a homeless charity
- Create bags to hand out for women who live on the streets, don't forget to include women's sanitary items—the one thing that many homeless women really struggle with. (There are many examples of blessing bags on Pinterest)
- The next time you buy socks for your husband buy a few more and hand out, who wants cold feet in winter.
- Helping women in domestic violence situations so they don't become homeless.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
To often we turn the other way and in doing so we miss a valuable opportunity to set an example for our children about helping others. Part of educating your children needs to include understanding the society they live and that not everyone is as fortunate as they are and encourage ways that they can help make a small differences.
We need to show compassion and we need our children to show compassion.
Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34–35) and what better way to demonstrate the love and kindness and compassion of Jesus Christ than by reaching out to the “least of these” among us?
He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.