By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS — June 29, 2015) — Imagine your morning starting like this: a siren awakens you as a police car passes about ten feet from the asphalt that has imprinted your cheek. You don’t need the Internet to tell you that it’s coldest just before dawn. The sharp poke in your gut reminds you that your last decent meal was days ago. You keep your head down—less attention means less trouble; besides, people don’t like to make eye contact. Worst of all is the terrible, lonely aimlessness—you have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and hope is a splinter that you don’t dare remove because it’s all that’s keeping you going.
This nightmarish scenario was reality for over 600,000 people in the United States in 2013. For some, it’s made even worse by the presence of a drug addiction or mental illness. Homelessness is a reality the world over for around 100 million people, according to a United Nations estimate.
According to data compiled by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:
* In January 2013, 610,042 people were homeless on a given night. Sixty-five percent of them were living in shelters.
* Twenty-three percent of the homeless were children.
Breaking down those statistics, the National Coalition on the Homeless reports, “On an average night in the 23 cities surveyed, 94 percent of people living on the streets were single adults, 4 percent were part of families and 2 percent were unaccompanied minors. Seventy percent of those in emergency shelters were single adults, 29 percent were part of families and 1 percent were unaccompanied minors. Of those in transitional housing, 43 percent were single adults, 56 percent were part of families, and 1 percent were unaccompanied minors. Those who occupied permanent supportive housing were 60 percent single adults, 39.5 percent were part of families, and .5 percent were unaccompanied minors.”
Putting these statistics into a local perspective (here in Albuquerque, New Mexico), homeless advocate and Joy Junction founder Dr. Jeremy Reynalds writes, “Our faith-based church ministry serves as many as 300 individuals a night, including as many as 60 to 80 children every day. Each year we are able to serve more than 200,000 meals!”
Let’s be honest: these statistics are disheartening. They lead to a series of questions, ones that particularly as Christians we should be asking: What can we do to help those who are homeless? What is a godly and proactive response to the problem of homelessness?
Yet in the midst of such sad news, there is glad news: Jesus loves the homeless. As one who experienced the pitfall of homelessness, Jesus is intimately acquainted with the conditions and life-altering nature of being without an earthly home.
The simple definition of homeless is the condition of living without a home. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the idea of home as a “permanent place of residence.”
Some homeless advocates define it more specifically. According to Stewart B. McKinney, a person is considered homeless who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence…The term ‘homeless individual’ does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to an Act of Congress or a state law.”
As mentioned above, Jesus was familiar with homelessness. But beyond the physical nature of not having a home, the Bible has much to say about the poor, downtrodden, and helpless. Here is a small sampling:
Leviticus 25:35-36: “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.”
Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deeds.”
Luke 3:10-11: “And Jesus answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.'”
Luke 6:20: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.”
1 John 3:17-18: “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? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
When developing a plan to assist the homeless, Mary Fairchild writes that Christians should, volunteer, respect, give, and pray. Just Give.org suggest thirty-five ways in which someone can help the homeless, including: understand who the homeless are, educate yourself about homelessness, respect the person as an individual, and respond with kindness.
As a basic principle, we as Christians should take action as we PRAY for homeless people:
P—practical help. Volunteer at a shelter, support a homeless family; give food, money, and time.
R—respond to the need with solutions. Drive the person to a doctor with friends. Give coats, meals, or phone numbers to shelters or temporary residences.
A—always present the Gospel. Remind the person that God loves them and has a plan for their life.
Y—you. Remind yourself that a homeless person can teach you about Christian virtues: dependence, perseverance, love, hope, and prayer. Author Philip Yancey wrote an article entitled “The Word on the Street: What the Homeless Taught Me About Prayer.” He said, “As I listened to the homeless relate their prayers, I was struck by the prayers’ down-to-earth quality—indeed, their resemblance to the Lord’s Prayer. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’: They all had stories about running out of food, praying, and then finding a burrito or uneaten pizza. ‘Deliver us from evil’: Living on mean streets, these believers pray that daily. ‘Forgive us our trespasses’: Deep down in each lay buried secrets of shame and regret. From my time with the homeless, I learned a new meaning to prayer: it can be a safe place to bare secrets.”
 http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/, 1/5/15
 http://www.joyjunction.org/, 1/5/15
 “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head'” (Matthew 8:20).
 http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/who.html, 12/18/14.
 https://www.justgive.org/donations/help-homeless.jsp, 1/5/15.
To learn more about the Jesus Loves People series, click here: www.jesuslovespeople.com
Photo captions: 1) Logo. 2. Brian Nixon
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). As a published author, editor, radio host, recording artist, and visual artist, Brian spends his free time with his three children and wife, painting, writing music, reading, and visiting art museums. To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
Note: If you would like to help support the ASSIST News Service, please go to www.assistnews.net and click on the DONATE button to make you tax-deductible gift (in the US), which will help us continue to bring you these important stories.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)