Religion Magazine

The Homeless And Outcast

By Ldsapologetics
Shane Claiborne is an evangelical speaker and author who as far as I can tell was the first to ask "How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?"
I personally don't understand the disdain many have, in Utah especially, for homeless people. The assumptions are many however. Assumptions like "They're all druggies and alcoholics." Or other assumptions like "They're all too lazy to work." 
The facts do not support these assumptions because most homeless are mentally ill and a huge percentage are veterans. 

"According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness. In comparison, only 6% of Americans are severely mentally ill (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009). In a 2008 survey performed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 25 cities were asked for the three largest causes of homelessness in their communities. Mental illness was the third largest cause of homelessness for single adults (mentioned by 48% of cities). For homeless families, mental illness was mentioned by 12% of cities as one of the top 3 causes of homelessness.

RELATIONSHIP TO HOMELESSNESS

Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self care and household management. Mental illnesses may also prevent people from forming and maintaining stable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others’ guidance and react irrationally. This often results in pushing away caregivers, family, and friends who may be the force keeping that person from becoming homeless. As a result of these factors and the stresses of living with a mental disorder, people with mentally illnesses are much more likely to become homeless than the general population (Library Index, 2009). A study of people with serious mental illnesses seen by California’s public mental health system found that 15% were homeless at least once in a one-year period (Folsom et al., 2005). Patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are particularly vulnerable.

Poor mental health may also affect physical health, especially for people who are homeless. Mental illness may cause people to neglect taking the necessary precautions against disease. When combined with inadequate hygiene due to homelessness, this may lead to physical problems such as respiratory infections, skin diseases, or exposure to tuberculosis or HIV. In addition, half of the mentally ill homeless population in the United States also suffers from substance abuse and dependence (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). Minorities, especially African Americans, are over-represented in this group. Some mentally ill people self-medicate using street drugs, which can lead not only to addictions, but also to disease transmission from injection drug use. This combination of mental illness, substance abuse, and poor physical health makes it very difficult for people to obtain employment and residential stability." From national homeless.org

Plus how can we accurately judge those whose names, much less stories, we do not know? We are commanded by Christ to love one another as He loves us and by that all will know we are His disciples. You can judge or you can love but you can't do both.

Perfect judgment only comes from perfect knowledge and only Christ has perfect knowledge which is why only Christ is fit to judge.

"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." D&C 64:10

Many have had bad experiences with being taken for a ride by homeless people but to blame all homeless people for the sins of a few would be like me saying I've had bad experiences with women so all women must be bad. Blanket statements don't work.

They don't work because there are good people and bad people, the flaw is in thinking that all people are one or the other.

And why so many condemn the homeless, the poor and the powerless in our society makes no sense to me because Jesus focused His ministry on those very people. So how can we act in His stead if we are so displeased with the very people He ministered to?

Here is a parable about the rich who can easily help those in need and those in need who suffer preventable ailments.

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:

28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Luke 16:19-31

The beggar is known by name but the rich man is not. That says a lot. The last shall be the first and the first shall be last.

I went to a comedy night not long ago and one comic compared panhandling, or begging, to rape and a friend I told later agreed with that comic.

That comparison is revolting to me.

I won't go as far as Jesus goes in saying that we should sell all we have and give it to the poor but a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate in the dead of winter goes along way. I'm often approached at the drive through and in that case I rarely have money to give but I will happily buy food for those I meet. 

But contrary to how many Utahns feel about the homeless the Utah state government has reduced homelessness by a staggering degree.

From nationofchange.org 

"This trend makes Utah’s accomplishment even more noteworthy. In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015.

How did Utah accomplish this? Simple. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s."

It came down to simple economics, it was cheaper to take care of the homeless than to abandon them.

Volunteering at soup kitchens daily may not be nessecary but it's better than comparing panhandling to rape. In the Lazarus and the rich man parable the homeless beggar goes to Heaven while to rich man goes to Hell. That gives us a good idea of how we should treat one another. 

The lesson I gather is that we, each of us, are our brothers and sisters keeper.

The Homeless And Outcast


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