Loving your neighbor as yourself : Part 2
by Rossaue Hosein
The vision of NO MORE is to educate, mobilize, and empower individuals to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But we cannot affect change in areas that we do not understand. Negative attitudes or prejudices largely come from myths. Below are some facts provided by the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative. (http://www.thhi.org) Learning the truth about homelessness and the people who become homeless opens the door to create a community of people willing to help those experiencing homelessness.
Myth: Most homeless people are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Fact: While many homeless people do report having a substance abuse issue, most report that the addiction occurred AFTER they became homeless and was not the cause of their homelessness. Often times, people experiencing homelessness turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to dull the realities that come with living on the street. While it depends on the person, many people find that once they are off the street they no longer find that they need or desire to continue with their addiction.
Myth: Providing food and shelter only enables people to remain homeless.
Fact: Food and shelter are essentials for life. By offering these and other outreach services, like restrooms and mail service, we build relationships with people in need. Then we’re able to offer them something more through our recovery programs, like counseling, addiction recovery, emotional healing, spiritual guidance, education, life skills and job training.
Myth: People are homeless by choice.
Fact: No one starts life with a goal of becoming homeless. People are homeless for a wide variety of reasons, a good number of which are at least partly and often largely beyond a person’s control. Homelessness occurs when people or households are unable to acquire and/or maintain housing. Two major factors that account for homelessness are the lack of jobs that pay a living wage and the lack of affordable housing. Additionally, people lose jobs and then housing. Women run away to the street to escape domestic violence. Many people have experienced significant trauma and simply cannot cope with life. Others struggle with mental illness, depression or post-traumatic stress. Yes, poor choices can contribute to homelessness. But outside circumstances strongly influence those choices.
According to the 2014 Tampa-Hillsborough Co homeless count (coordinated by THHI), 53 percent of homeless people said they were homeless because of employment financial reasons. 25 percent cited family problems (such as divorce, death of a family member, domestic violence) as the reason and 10 percent cited medical/disability issues led to their homelessness.
So let us choose to replace our prejudgment for discernment. When you are approached by someone in need or see someone, ask God to give you discernment on if and how you are to help. (The definition for discernment is 1. To detect with the eyes. 2. To detect with senses other than vision.) Ask God to give you eyes to see the needs of those around you, and how you can help meet the need with His help. Pray for discernment. He makes us sensitive to what breaks His heart, so He can use us to be His hands and feet; all we have to do is discern His nudging and act on it.
The needs are real, and if you have a heart for the homeless there are several things you can do to help. Here are a few opportunities to consider:
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