"34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdomprepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" Matthew 25:30-40.
Knowing how to practically help the poor in this day and age is not always very straightforward. Sometimes we encounter the poor in our neighborhoods and don't know what to do. Sometimes we give money to help the poor in countries far away, but do nothing to help those right under our noses. The verse above actually refers foremost to helping those near us. First of all, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Secondly those in our neighborhoods. Then those in our country. Finally, after you are helping these people, give to those overseas, primarily by way of supporting missions and projects that work alongside individuals for training and sustainable development. Of course this is not a hard and fast rule, but many of us do miss the part about helping people around us.
Every time I see a homeless person on the street corner my heart breaks. It doesn't matter what this person has done that might have been his or her fault to get them in this position, it is still heartbreaking that they are there.
Many people say "You shouldn't give them money - they might buy drugs or alcohol with it!" And then do nothing. This may be true, but there are two things wrong with this statement.
1. It makes the homeless person out to be someone who is inherently more sinful than you or I. If I were in a similar position I would have gotten there from my bad choices, and naturally I also would not be in a position to make wise choices with my money.
2. It doesn't address what you CAN do to help, so instead nothing happens.
Aside from the very few people working with ministries to actively help homeless people, unless I am wrong, there is not much your average person, like myself, is really doing to make a difference.
Since moving to our city I have seen about one homeless person a month. I'm always so sad to not be able to do anything.
After thinking about this idea for awhile I finally put together several homeless person care packages I can hand out the window to anyone I might see in need.
Giving a person a few toiletries and food items is something practical that anyone can use. You are making the choice for the person of how to use their money, instead of giving them the difficult task of deciding how to use the money themselves. It's not going to save the world, but the packages can be a blessing and encouragement to someone in need.
Homeless Person Care Packages
You will need:
Non-perishabe snacks such as peanut butter crackers, cheese crackers, granola bars, and dried fruit and nuts.
Basic toiletries; at least a toothbrush and toothpaste, but a mini deodorant, some soap, and a razor are also nice.
Encouraging reading material. I used gospel tracts. I also would have liked to add light reading material such as a Reader's Digest magazine or a Guidepost, but I didn't have any.
Bottles of water to hand over when you pass the packages.
Food vouchers for local restaurants would also be good, as would a personal note of encouragement.
Eventually I'd also like to have some hats and clean t-shirts I can give too.
For four packages I used:
1 package of peanut butter crackers
1 package of cheese crackers
1 package of granola bars
4 small boxes raisins
4 small bags of peanuts
4 packages travel toiletry kits (3 men's, 1 woman's. Most of the homeless people I've seen are men.)
4 packages wet wipes
4 gallon sized zip lock bags
16 gospel tracts - I had two different kinds and placed two of each in a package
4 water bottles
Total cost was a little more than $30.
I keep them in a paper bag at the foot of the passenger seat so I can reach one easily as needed.
Of course you can always give more than this, such as canned food and other food items. Keep in mind that the person probably only has a backpack to carry stuff in, so you don't want to give things that are overly heavy.
Other practical ideas would be to take a homeless person out for a meal. This should probably only be done with people of your same gender. This would be a great opportunity to show someone you care and interact with them personally. Many of these people are lonely, and likely hurting, so taking your time to share a meal could be very encouraging.
You may also try to research local homeless shelters or soup kitchens in case the individual is not aware of these ministries.
What have you done to make a practical difference with your local homeless people?
Please leave a comment so I can have other ideas to add to this post!