Often times when we think of helping or ministering to the homeless, we think of handing out money, food, and clothes, or possibly volunteering at a homeless shelter. To those ideas, I say "YES". There will always be a place for meeting people's immediate physical needs, and we know from Christ's own example that feeding and clothing those who are hungry and needy is part of what believers are called here to do. So if that's you, thank-you for serving, and for showing Christ's love in a beautiful, tangible way.
However, many homeless people are trapped in a cycle of poverty in which they will perpetually remain homeless, no matter how much food or clothing they receive, unless they are given access to the opportunity to work. For those who think homeless people should be able to quickly obtain minimum wage type work at establishments such as fast food restaurants, lets reexamine that.
When is the last time you filled out a job application?
You know that part at the beginning that you breeze through? The easy part where you list your address, your phone number, your e-mail? For a homeless person, those fields aren't easy and obvious.
Assuming that part eventually does get finished, and you get your interview call, what's next?
I can guarantee you'll show up freshly showered, with clean clothes and good hygiene, and that those are things you won't have to put much thought into taking care of. That's hard to do when you're wearing the only clothes you have and you may or may not get a shot at the shower in a shelter.
Its not meant as an "excuse", and I certainly hope that homeless people with the ability to work will persevere in seeking out that opportunity, but I think we need to be realistic about the challenge that exists there, as well as the reality that all that effort may eventually produce a part time job paying $7.25 per hour. Basically, its better than no job, but it won't be taking anyone off the streets overnight.
Since the job application process isn't likely to get a dramatic overhaul, what can we as believers do to provide work opportunities?
Well some ministries, such as Mobile Loaves and Fishes in Austin, Texas, have taken a new approach that utilizes Micro-Enterprise as a way to engage homeless people in meaningful work and give them the opportunity to begin earning an income. This division of the ministry is called ROADS (Relationships & Opportunities Allowing for Dignity & Security).
ROADS offers three "micro" income earning options - iClean, Street Treats, and The Workshop.
Street Treats its a bicycle cart ice cream sales endeavor, in which the individual sells ice cream treats at $1 per item, and keeps all the profits.
iClean is a waterless car wash system, with the capability to travel to customers, that professionally cleans both the exterior and interior of vehicles.
The Workshop allows homeless men and women with woodworking skills to create handcrafted items such as furniture and birdhouses.
Each option ultimately provides a stream of income, marketable skills, resume building experience, and, perhaps most importantly, pride in their individual ability to work hard and to reap the rewards of that work.
Here is what Mobile Loaves and Fishes website says about their work in this area:
"Welcome to ROADS (Relationships & Opportunities Allowing for Dignity & Security). We are a small group of ordinary people, homed and homeless, working to create relationships, an environment of dignity and a world of opportunities. We invite you come visit us, look around the site, ask questions, donate, spread the word, and participate however you best can.
Click to Mobile Loaves and Fishes Site
ROADS is a service-oriented program of Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF), helping our homeless brothers and sisters in need lift themselves up through relationships and micro-enterprise opportunities. We desire to serve as the road, or straight way, on which our homeless brothers and sisters have the opportunity to navigate out of desert wastelands and into community and the sense of home.
We believe every human being deserves dignity, respect and a modest living, which is why we stride to support our community with these aspects. We believe home is more than a roof; and that our micro-enterprise opportunities combined with relational support, accountability and consistency is what helps individuals experiencing homelessness successfully lift themselves off the street with their God given skills and abilities."
The body of Christ is filled with diverse individuals, many of whom have a beautiful capacity to think outside the box and come up with new and creative ways to meet needs that have been - and will continue to be - very real and present in every corner of the globe.
How can you support these faithful believers who are willing to step out and come up with new, God glorifying ways to show the love of Christ to those with no homes?
What's happening in your community today that you become a part of?
© 2020 El-Inkwell.