Blog Home » Church Life » Benevolence - Caring » Address Real Needs in Homelessness, Not Just Symptoms

Address Real Needs in Homelessness, Not Just Symptoms


Jesus Views Helping with Homelessness as though Done to Him
Obviously people who are homeless need shelter, food, warmth, and personal goods and Jesus views whether we help or not as though we’re doing it to Him. Distributing these items is a meaningful ministry, sharing the love of Christ in tangible ways. However, if we never get beyond the symptoms of homelessness to addressing the causes and real needs, we will do little to solve this problem.

Reasons for Homelessness Point to the Real Needs

Those who lost their jobs, can’t afford health insurance, and the like need help finding employment and paying medical and other bills — need a sense of security.

Those in family crisis (death, divorce, estrangement) need counsel, comfort, and practical assistance — need a sense of perspective.

Those with substance abuse problems need help overcoming their addictions — need a sense of victory.

Those released from prison need help getting back into society, gaining employment, etc. — need a sense of forgiveness.

Those from a foster care background need to know they matter to someone, have someone they can trust, and find help in establishing roots — need a sense of belonging.

Those who are victims of natural disaster need help rebuilding their lives, maybe their homes — need a sense of hope.

Of anybody, shouldn’t we as Christians be able to provide people with that sense of security, perspective, victory, forgiveness, belonging, and hope?  Meeting those needs goes beyond the physical realm.

Also Read:


4 Replies to “Address Real Needs in Homelessness, Not Just Symptoms”

  1. I think you are right on with this sentiment. We need to be doing more than just the old standby handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and collecting winter coats.

    Can you suggest some specific ways that people can take action? I think there are a lot people who would like to help but have no clue where to start if not handing out tangible goods.

    • Good question, but one that has no quick or easy response. Let me first say that handing out tangible goods is necessary and important. Remember that Jesus met physical needs as He was moved by compassion for people. Meeting physical needs often opens the doors to meeting the deep-rooted needs. When someone is hungry or cold, it is difficult for them to get beyond that level. Meeting physical needs might be the starting point to helping people see that you care and of them trusting you to help them take the next step to get out of their homelessness. The problem is that handing out tangible goods too often is the end of what we do rather than the starting point.

      The reality is that unless the church as a whole, along with community organizations, wake up and do their part, we won’t come close to eradicating homelessness. Apart from a miracle, that probably won’t happen. As trite as it might sound, individuals or small organizations like local churches, must be willing to help one person at a time, one community at a time. Every individual matters.

      To really help is going to take investment into their lives which undoubtedly will take us out of our comfort zones. First, if we really want to make a difference, we must build relationships with them. That means a homeless ministry must be more than a one time or sporadic effort. It means going to the same place, meeting the same people, on a regular basis. Second, if we really want to make a difference, we must find out what the real need is. This blog post suggested some possibilities but you aren’t going to know unless you talk with the people. And, they probably aren’t going to tell you if they don’t sense you truly care. Third, if we really want to make a difference, after we know what the real need is, we must provide or enlist the service of those who can provide for that need. … maybe helping them work on a GED, getting them into a good substance abuse program, skill development for a job, financial management skills, grief counseling, etc. We need to get really practical, tailoring ministry to individuals according to whatever got them into the homeless state. The concept is well put in the saying, “Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for a lifetime.”

      There is a certain sense of realism (not pessimism) that we must have in this type of ministry. Not all homeless people will be open to true change. We might see greater openness on the part of those who are newly homeless. Not all people who want to help homeless people can invest the time or have the personality or gifting to build relationships with them. If we can match people to helping in ways that best fit them, it will be better all around. Some people will be better at handing out tangible goods … a needed ministry. Some people will be better at building relationships. Some people will be better as resource people. Some people will be better at teaching skills, etc.

  2. I like the discussion. Good stuff I rarely hear or read.

    Find out who is helping feed, cloth, and house people in need. Volunteer and mingle with the people.

    You’ll discover the needs; then jump in…oh, and bring some friends.

    Just work from need-to-need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published but may be used to contact you of any responses to your comment. Spam, requests for free material, and promotional info will not be posted; nor will a response be forthcoming. Required fields are marked *