Apr 302014

Helping the Homeless

It’s a tricky business, helping the homeless. I have seen a variety of examples of helping—from the most clumsy attempts to one much more on target. I have seen rather arrogant young helpers conveying the impression that they have all of the answers trying to work with men and women two or three times their age, some of whom conveyed humility and wisdom and proibably do a better joib by far than these young geniuses.


I have seen brash helpers who tried to run a shelter like a military camp, conveying the impression that every homeless person was suspect or up to no good and needed to be controlled.


There are fundamentalist helpers whose primary emphasis is to save the souls of these unfortunates, or sinners. Some feel that if the homeless would only accept Jesus that all of their problems would be solved.


Then there are highly professional helpers who strive to maintain a therapeutic distance and come across as cold and uncaring as a result. And others who lose their sense of boundaries and become over involved and repeatedly .invite them home or lend them money or sleep with them.

I have seen those with high, reasonable and low expectations for the homeless.

I have seen those who display compassion but not pity…and the opposite.

I have seen those who make suggestions or tell the homeless what to do.

I have seen those who just act like themselves or who put on some kind of front.

I have seen those with as martyr complex and those who clearly see what they are doing as a normal way to give back to society and help the poor.

I have been homeless and have sought to help the homeless and pre-homeless. The latter is far from an easy task and I would need more experience to really feel confident, though I have been in the shoes of the homeless.


Some of the homeless try to help each other, but honestly, most are so caught up in dealing with their own problems that helping others is quite low on their list of priorities. Though I have a counseling background, I would include myself in the latter group of individuals.


There are times when you put whatever helping skills you possess aside, thank goodness. Nothing is ore irritating than someone who goes around constantly trying to help others, in my view.


If you are a volunteer you may find that unexpectedly a homeless person will come up to you are for some reason trust you enough to share a deep concern. There must be an instant connection made in his or her mind. This is a humbling and very gratifying experience at the same time. But you can’t predict when this will happen. And it usually happens one to one, not in a group. When this happens, I try mainly to be a good listener and may offer, mildly, a suggestion or two. But mainly I try to display empathy and offer compassion.


These are some of my thoughts on helping the homeless.

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