Constructive help about homeless people

This is a request, not a resource. And in particular, I’m referring to homeless men, very likely with a substance abuse problem, a mental health problem or both. This isn’t theory, but daily life in my fair city.

We have a concentration of homeless men in my neighborhood, and it isn’t any mystery. The P Street corridor in northwest Washington has gotten a very fast influx of wealth. Largly gay male wealth, at that. On the other hand, we’re not even two full blocks from one of the largest homeless shelters in the city. If you’re going to ask for money, go where the money is.

Of course, it bothers me that so many have so little money and so few options for a safe and happy life. So here are this Sunday’s twin realities.

  • God knows I had just preached about memetic rivalry, and how one-sided competition leads to violence. (In this neighborhood case, the unresolved needs of the homeless men with either break out violence from them or to them.)
  • Hubby and I don’t give money to panhandlers. In part because it tends to fuel addiction without resolution. But in part — speaking for myself alone — because I don’t want the cat to keep coming to the door. And I don’t want to be bothered at lunch by man who can barely stand up straight and who considers discarded cigarette butts fair game. (All of which was true today.)
  • There’s a moral dilemma here, and one well known to anyone who lives or works in an urban area.

    I won’t hide behind stained-glass piety or indulge in middle-class liberal guilt. Call my appeal one for practical, realistic Christian discipleship. For the non-Christians out there, consider it attainable civic responsibility. (The two aren’t the same, but both are needed.)

    Comment away.

    By Scott Wells

    Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


    1. I know my folk’s church in on P street and offers some services.

      my name is hardly a credit card around the place, but if you think it would help to say that

      you’re a friend of Gary and Carolyn Smith’s daughter, go for it.

      and they work with CCHFP, which offers more of them.

      If you’ve got a specific homeless person you’d like to help, they may be able to hook you up. If you’re more worried about the problem in general, then they’re always looking for volunteers.


    2. CC — thanks for the kind input, but I was thinking more in terms of whole systems and new approaches, rather than programs (because what we have socially are leaving some problems unresolved.) Plus I’d like to address some things broader than those found in Our Fair City.

      As it happens, I used to be in a lectionary group with the senior minister at Pilgrims — you’ll recall my last pastorate was on the other side of Dupont Circle — but I didn’t know they had an outreach.

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