Most government programs and some homeless charities fail to address all the needs of the homeless. Most areas offer shelters and soup kitchens for the homeless, but these facilities are in fixed locations, so they serve limited populations.
Low wages is a problem
With a tent and $20, a homeless man can have shelter and food for the day, without the hassle of checking into a shelter, meeting its regulations about substance abuse and having to deal with a curfew. Either way, he will be no closer to finding a job, a car, an apartment or health insurance.
Homeless people who have worked for awhile may be able to get small Social Security checks or disability payments. Even if you combine these checks with the income from a fulltime, minimum-wage job, most could not afford the cheapest rent, electricity, and food.
- We know a woman who has been living in the woods for 14 years. If she worked 40 hours a week at a minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, she would make $824 a month. The cheapest apartments near her woods run about $550 a month, plus $75 for electricity. That leaves $199 to cover everything else. If her job is not within walking distance but is on the bus route, she would spend $4 per day commuting -- that’s another $80 a month. That leaves roughly $4 per day for food and any other necessities.
- Unable to work because of physical disabilities.
- Unable to work because of mental illnesses.
- Unable to work because of lacking people skills.
- Unable to work because of a severe lack of coping skills.
Homeless Charities – What the government is doing
Some cities are now experimenting with providing housing first. The idea is to give someone a rent-free home that is close to a place that offers services including substance-abuse counseling, financial counseling, and access to government programs. Once they get jobs, they pay as much rent as they can afford until they become self-sufficient.
For homeless programs to be effective, they would have to ensure that people learn skills to earn higher wages. They would have to provide support to keep them from abusing drugs and alcohol.
Homeless Charities – What churches can do
A church that opened its doors to one homeless couple could provide all these needs plus the spiritual support that would make their lives meaningful in the context of serving God, rather than just making money and “getting ahead.”
There is a community in Colorado that is challenging every church to adopt a homeless family to end homelessness there in 10 years. There is also an international organization based in Colorado that is committed to helping people effectively sponsor a child in the most troubled parts of the world.
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