I wanted to title this post, "Why you (and not the government) are the answer to homelessness," but my web specialist says 50 characters is my limit.
It's not that the government can't play a role. It can. It does. It should. But notice the pronoun. The government may be made up of people, but it's hard to have a relationship with an institution. You can vote and pay your taxes and write your congressman. And the government, for its part, can provide funding, commodities and infrastructure, but you cannot call the government when you are lonely. You can perhaps call a government-funded crisis hotline in the middle of the night, but what about the next day and the next and the next?
Someone recently wrote in a social media thread that they hoped UGM would be put "out of business." In fact, she said she was making it her aim in life. Now, if UGM went out of business because there was no longer any need, I think we'd all be shouting, "Hallelujah!" But if UGM went out of business with thousands of people still unhoused, that would be a tragedy. And not primarily because we provided more than 117,000 nights of shelter and 331,000 meals to 4,000 people last year. It's feasible that the government could step in to do that. There would be a high price tag, for sure (UGM operates 100% free of government funding), but feeding and sheltering people is a small piece of what UGM does. The reason it would be a tragedy is because UGM is in the heart business.
UGM is first and foremost about hospitality. About welcoming people with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. About grace. About relationship. Relationship that calls people off the streets and into a better place.
Homelessness and its evil relative, addiction, are primarily about a loss of connection. Men and women, whether through family breakdown, trauma, domestic violence, their own destructive choices or a combination of all these factors, have become isolated - separated from any kind of support network. Certainly, a lack of affordable housing, income disparity, health care, and other societal issues play a role, but the solution - time and time again - comes back to relationships. And that's why you are the solution.
You are a person. You can listen. You can pray. You can serve a meal. You can make eye contact and smile. You can say with authenticity, "I care about you." You can invite someone to church or welcome them when they show up and wonder if they belong. You can be a friend. You can give of your time, your talent or your treasure.
Start small. Download our free tip sheet on "How to Help a Panhandler."