Freedom to Serve the Homeless

Recently, the Austin City Council passed a new ordinance on panhandling, camping and resting in public. These new rules have brought the issue of homelessness in Austin to the forefront of public discussion as many on both sides of the issue have become vocal. As the conversation progresses we should seek to love and serve the most marginalized in our city no matter the outcome.

As we heard this past Sunday the freedom of the gospel puts us in the service of others through both gospel proclamation and gospel demonstration. If it really is a gospel for all, then we’ll serve the poor and marginalized. Whether it is participating in a Mercy Ministry through your City Group or volunteering and financially supporting a ministry like Rework Project we are all called to this type of service.

What are some simple ways we can respond in love and service when this happens?

Here are 10 simple ways to help the homeless

1. Buy them a meal.
Well-intended gifts of cash may be converted to drugs or alcohol. If you want to avoid supporting those habits, you can always buy them a burger or a drink.

2. Talk to the person with respect.
The homeless are often ignored or tolerated. What if we took the time to talk to a homeless person in a friendly, respectful manner? It can give them a sense of dignity, even help fight the isolation and despair many face.

3. Recognize that homeless people (and their problems) are not all the same.
The homeless are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. The person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, someone who is lacking job skills. Getting to know their story can help.

4. Share God’s love whenever you can.
If Jesus were walking the earth today, he would certainly spend time with the homeless. He would speak with them, heal them, and help them. Today, Jesus chooses to work through us. Consider serving at ReWork.

5. Pray for the homeless.
Exposure to the elements, dirt, occasional violence, and lack of purpose all drain years from a person’s life. God can use your prayers and the brutality and the futility of life of the street to bring many of the broken to Himself.

6. Pray for wisdom before acting.
Always be prudent when interacting with the homeless. Stay in areas where others can see you. Don’t take unnecessary risks.

7. Encourage the homeless to get help through your local homeless ministry.

8. Financially Support your local homeless ministry.
Many homeless ministries receive little or no government funding. Here are a few we recommend.

9. Volunteer with your local homeless ministry. 
Serving alongside your local ministry is a great way to build relationships with the homeless. Here, the collective wisdom of the ministry’s community will aid you as you take steps further into the lives of the homeless.

10. Pray for the leadership and staff of your local homeless ministry.
The demands placed on the leadership and staff of homeless ministries is extensive. The situations these people confront on a daily basis or complex and confusing. Pray that Jesus would continue to give the staff hope, strength, and wisdom.