Q & R: Panhandlers?
Here's the Q:
This is from yyy. Many years ago I attended Cedar Ridge while you were pastor.
I host occasional "salons" where people have the floor for a spell to talk about a subject.
I would like to have one on the topic of responses to homelessness.
I have always had jobs that related to economic and social justice. And outside of my paid employment I have frequently volunteered with organizations that address homelessness in one form or another. For several years I was president of an awesome clinic that provided free legal services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. I support homeless organizations with my money.
But, I am afraid that I don't have a consistent or humane response when confronted with homelessness--and specifically, panhandling--when it is right in front of me (and because I work in a city, it is often right in front of me).
As I started to explore this, I wondered if you had written on this. And if so, what that writing was.
I think I have hesitated to explore this further because I'll have to face the inadequacy of my response. But I still have time to change.
I hope that you and your family are doing well. I enjoy seeing your blog posts via facebook and reading of your travels. What an interesting path for the English teacher turned pastor, eh?
Here's the R:
Great to hear from you! It turns out this question comes up here on the site from time to time. I wrote a bit about it a while back ...
I especially struggle with this when I'm in certain parts of the world where most of the people asking for money are children. I remember once being with a group of westerners in Africa, and one of us gave a child a half-finished bottle of water. Soon, the child was mobbed with other kids trying to take the bottle away. We realized by giving this child something, we made her life a lot harder in relation to her peers, without much return. So in the long run, dealing with the systemic issues -as you have been doing for your whole career - is especially important.
But that doesn't make the decision "on the sidewalk" any easier.