I’ve always had a heart for the homeless. I guess growing up on a farm in rural South Florida helped. Being a farmer and having a father who used to be a fruit tramp or migrant worker helped. Growing up poor and working side be side in the fields with migrant workers helped. But I really think knowing the Lord Jesus and obeying His words had a greater effect on me caring for homeless.
Be willing to talk
Homeless people often know all the answers about questions on Jesus, eternal life, etc., but whether they are truly believers I cannot judge. They are always willing to talk. They need friends or at least a friendly encounter with real people too. They have family, but most of them reject them or wish they weren’t in their lives.
It’s tough to sit and talk when most smell so bad; many times your hand will stink after shaking their hand and beware if you dare put your arm around most. You can’t get the stink off for days. Not all are this way, but on my many encounters most were. But they are hurting people just like you and me.
Don’t be afraid of all the yucky thoughts you have. Start by caring enough and saying hi. Look them in the eyes and ask their name, how their day has gone, if you can pray for them, and then do it right then.
Be willing to care
Don’t worry if you hear the same story fifteen times, hear a few uncouth words, or encounter a wind shift where the smell about knocks you out. It’s OK. You’ll get over it. Your friends and family may not, but you will. And always share the Lord Jesus with them. Leave a little green stuff too.
Yes, they probably will use it to drink, but that’s okay. You never know what that act of kindness may lead to. Maybe you’ll meet them in heaven and they’ll say, “You know, those few moments you spent with me brought me to Christ. I never got out of my homelessness on earth but my heavenly mansion sure is nice. And the Lord – wow, what a Savior! It was all because of you! You took the time to listen and care.”
Growing your faith
Caring for the homeless can lead you into some dangerous situations or especially dangerous areas of town, or to at least what you might think is dangerous! Visiting there will grow your faith in Christ, in whom you trust (Psalms 91). But the majority of the homeless I have met are NOT dangerous themselves.
Maybe where they choose to dwell is, but they aren’t. Many homeless are content to remain that way in spite of the many programs and Christian centers like Pacific Gardens Missions, or Miami Rescue Missions, etc. which provide a track to go back into the normal life stream.
Have thick skin
Don’t be offended if they may turn you down when you ask them if they would they go with you to McDonald’s or any other fast food restaurants. Don’t be upset if they won’t go to the grocery store with you to get food for them. They don’t have refrigerators or places to store food. Oftentimes they aren’t hungry anyways.
They will usually try various ingenious ways to get some money out of people. I usually give them a few dollars. Not much though, as it could put them at risk to be robbed and beaten up.
When you talk to a homeless person, don’t be surprised if they have liquor on their breath. Or if their breath about knocks you out as they may never brush their teeth! Give them a little distance, but not too much. Get over the immediate reaction to judge them for whatever issues arise during your conversation with them.
Take the time to make it a worthwhile conversation. Ask them pointed questions like, “Where were you born? What’s your favorite food?” Even ask them how they find themselves as a homeless person. What about family, etc. Also don’t freak out if they tell you of their encounters with prison or jail. Let them tell their story.
Remember that God loves them!
The next time you see a homeless person, remember that God loves them. He commands us to love them too! Galatians 2:10-”Only they would that we should remember the poor, the same which I was forward to do.” (Paul always did this before being asked to, it was his desire to do, made no bones about helping the poor). Remember that “save for the grace of God there go I”!
Always bring things back around to the Lord. Some may disagree with that but, they need the Lord too!
Finally, remember our Lord was homeless at times , as He had no place to lay His head, nor a pillow!