Lending Your Hand to Lift Others Up on World Homeless Day - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Everyday Living
October 10, 2018

Lending Your Hand to Lift Others Up on World Homeless Day

Have you ever wondered what would happen to you if you lost your job, your spouse, or your ability to care for yourself physically or mentally? Hopefully you’ve got a strong network of friends and family who would rally around to provide for your needs. But many people aren’t blessed with a safety net of loving support.

Far too many Americans are just one misfortune or one paycheck away from being homeless. October 10 is World Homeless Day — certainly not a day of celebration, but a day for raising awareness and educating people about homelessness. It’s also a day to discover how you might get involved in a way that calls to your heart and testifies to your faith.

Why is there so much homelessness in America?

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty reports that prior to the 2008 recession, an estimated 2.5 to 3 million men, women, and children were experiencing homelessness each year. But the crisis has deepened in the 10 years since.

The center estimates that each year “at least 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans sleep in shelters, transitional housing, and public places not meant for human habitation. At least an additional 7.4 million have lost their own homes and are doubled-up with others due to economic necessity.”

For women, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness. Other top causes of homelessness among families are:

  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Low wages

Other sobering statistics cited in Homelessness in America: Overview of Data and Causes include:

  • Over 1.2 million school children were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year, an 8% increase over the previous school year.
  • On a single night in January 2014, veterans accounted for about 11.3% of all homeless adults. 

  • In a 2014 survey of 25 US cities, 15% of all homeless adults were identified as survivors of domestic violence.

What can you do to make a difference in the life of a homeless person?

Since its inception in 2010, the goal of World Homeless Day has been to draw attention to the needs of people in your local community and provide opportunities for involvement. If you’re short on money, you can give your time. If you’re short on time, you can offer your God-given talents and skills.

“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.” (Matthew 25:35)

Extend a welcoming hand, a warm smile or a listening ear — Acknowledgment might be one of the biggest gifts you can offer a homeless person. While you might feel more comfortable averting your eyes when you pass a homeless person on the street, acknowledging her presence lets her feel seen and valued. Often the loss of dignity that accompanies homelessness is harder to deal with than the loss of material things, so be a welcoming and respectful presence in the life of a stranger.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17)

Donate things you no longer need — If you’ve got a closet-full of unused clothing and barely worn shoes, people who frequent the local homeless shelter or food kitchen will find much value in your gently used apparel.

Organize a winter clothing drive — Let your friends and church family know you’re collecting essential cold-weather items that homeless people really need to survive when tempatures drop. Gather up thick blankets, sleeping bags, coats, hats, gloves, and tarps. Ask your local Salvation Army or homeless shelter how to best distribute these items to those who need them most.

Help with job placement — Many homeless people want to work but are unable to find employment. Use your church and community connections to explore even part-time or temporary duties that homeless people can take on to earn much-needed cash while creating a local support network of their own.

Volunteer your time — Love to cook and serve people? Put your culinary skills to work at the local food kitchen. Handy with a hammer? Offer to do building maintenance for a community agency that serves the homeless. Love kids? Babysit one night a week at the domestic violence safe house.

No matter how you choose to serve others, remember that by doing so you are really serving Christ:

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.