Homeless. What image does this word produce in your mind?
I personally do not like the word homeless. To me it more-likely-than-not conjures up a stereotypical image that is not kind to the person who finds themselves in this position. What I have used to describe people in this position is “people without homes.” But really, does it matter what term is used? I think so. It matters because of how a term can draw us towards how well we love our neighbors during their time of crisis or is the catalyst to push us further away.
So how do we love people without homes while they are transitioning from this state to a place of permanent residence? Here are some emotional and tangible ways one can consider that is really based on how you well you think and respond to them.
- Respect. We all want to feel respected at any stage of our life journey. Often times people who do not have a home, are viewed differently. I’m not talking about the people who formally intervene on their behalf, but by some public members in general. Lazy. Unclean. The ugly labels are plentiful. Often times a person who is judging or disrespecting a person without a home, has not taken the time to educate themselves about the issue of homelessness. Many people without homes are employed, for example, and find themselves living in a car because affordable housing is not within reach. Instead of thinking about how “these people” should work harder to provide a way to support themselves, a major mind shift is needed in the area of respect for many citizens who find themselves in this disadvantaged situation.
- Response. How do you respond to a person without a home on the street? Disgust? Compassion? Giving them with a sandwich? Emotional responses to people in need are closely linked to respect for them, but also are an enhanced reaction. Many cross the road to avoid a person without a home begging for change on a sidewalk. Others feel moved enough to toss a few coins or buy them a bagged lunch. What is the most loving way to support them? During a recent tour of the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix, we were told the best way to support people without homes, is to direct them to services that will address all aspects related to their situation. But this should be done with care, for their safety and yours, knowing that many times its best to call a professional who can get directly involved with their needs.
- Connection. If the situation is stable, we think a wonderful way to love people without homes is by developing a connection with them. How can a person do this? One way is to connect with them through a traveling to volunteer service opportunity. TTV is currently working hard in curating opportunities for travelers and this list will continue to grow. However, on a day-to-day basis, you can look people in the eye as you hurry down your busy street, say hello to someone looking for change, and strike up a conversation with someone who may need a little attention. Putting the “human” back into the “humanitarian” crisis and relief is sorely needed, and can be easily done as it doesn’t take much effort to connect this way!
Thinking through your actions and developing your healthy thoughts towards individuals (and families) who are temporarily without a place to call their own is the best way to love them. Because, we are all really one situation away from being a person without a home. And, we would also appreciate all the respect, the best responses and individual connection directed towards us if we were in that position ourselves.