How To Respond When Someone Experiencing Homelessness Asks for Money

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I’ve spent 7 years in relationship with a whole slew of people living on the streets in Hollywood and Orange County. One of the most common questions I hear is, “What should I do when someone asks me for money?”

I’ve answered it in classes, and as brief as I can in conversation, but don’t think I’ve ever blogged about it. It’s not an easy question, so I’m going to do my best to sum up some options, fully aware that there can be a lot going on with a person that could negate any of these suggestions, or be inappropriate for a specific circumstance. So with that disclaimer (and a hopefully obvious disclaimer of SAFETY FIRST), let’s start with:

1. I Don’t Know. But God Does.

You’re the person in that situation, talking to that person, so you can always ask God for discernment on how to respond. I’ve had moments where I said no and left with no interaction because I didn’t feel safe, and others where I sat down and we talked and prayed for the next 30 minutes. Don’t go with your mood, DO go with your gut (being tired and in a bad mood isn’t necessarily a gut reaction from God that allows us to refuse help.) In fact, half of the time I’ve had the most amazing interactions was when I really had to suck it up and push past my lack of motivation. Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and move accordingly.

Ok, I know that’s vague, so let’s get practical…

2. Give Cash….or don’t. But build a relationship. What do I do when a homeless person asks me for money

Many times I will pull out a few bucks, always accompanied with an introduction of myself and asking their name. Sometimes I’ll do all of the intro first, then find out if I can buy them anything instead to find out the real need. I wrote a blog a few years ago about a man named Jacques who I met on the street. This is how we got to know each other.

I was walking home from the gym and told him I had no money on me, but still introduced myself and asked him about himself – how long he’d been in this situation, what his needs were, etc. I’d see him every week or two, and we’d spend some time talking and getting to know each other. We never talked about money after that. In fact, quite often, money is not the real need. Look past the question to the true need being presented. Just a hint: it probably has to do with relationship – with God, and with others.

3. Meet Another Need

I’ve carried water bottles and granola bars in my car. I recently helped a group of elementary school kids put together toiletry kits to give to those experiencing homelessness in their neighborhoods. Is it because these people really can’t get toiletries? Not really. I mean, they are a need and everything helps. But it’s also a way to show you care, without having to give away money. It’s personal and, once again, provides an opening to conversation.

Likewise, carry resource cards for all of the places in your area that provide showers, food, beds, laundry service. Those are some of the real needs, and a few bucks aren’t going to provide those. Those resources are also likely far better equipped to help them long-term – send the people you meet to those who have the resources to get them on their feet.

4. Provide an Opportunity or Solution

Call me crazy, but consider also carrying information for your church, and maybe a few bus tokens. That way, you can invite them into a place of community and get to know them in a safer environment. Granted, this will likely be refused, but you never know! And call me really crazy, but consider asking if and how you can pray for them – then do it right there. People  need people, and people need God. If your Bible is the same as mine, it says to heal the sick, cast out demons, and give to those in need. Is the person in front of you sick or injured? Pray for it and expect a miracle! laundry and prayer with homeless man

Again, look past the ask to the need. They’re homeless for a reason, such as not having a job. They probably don’t have a job because they’re mentally ill, physically ill, or simply ill-equipped. I remember meeting a man who knew painting, construction, yard work, etc and just needed an opportunity. So I told him I’d ask my brother-in-law (a general contractor) if he had any work.

Another man I met on the side of the road also needed work, so I looked up jobs on Craigslist, printed them, and then had him meet me in a public place so I could give them to him and talk about applying. Eventually, it became clear he just wanted to go home after getting off of parole. So some friends helped pool money and I bought him a bus ticket home where he could be with family.

I could go on and on, even getting into reasons why some of these could be harmful depending on the person and their situation. But you don’t want to read forever or get into psychology right now (I don’t think..and if you do, check out this training).

What I boil it down to is, no matter the situation – good, bad, ugly, misunderstood, everyone needs the love of a Savior, and the love of people. Start there with whatever you decide, and you can’t go wrong.

Of course, feel free to comment with your own ideas and to ask me questions – I love helping however I can in this area!

Why Do We Condemn Success?

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So, I have a problem with something. Why is it that when people try to better their lives, and then encourage others to do the same and reap the same rewards, they get accused for doing something wrong?

Someone told me about the “No Excuses Mom” (Maria Kang) recently and how there was some big to-do about her. I didn’t get it. Then I read about her,  and I really didn’t get it. When I read about her busy life and ability to maintain an awesome body with HARD WORK, I was inspired. I thought, “Dang, if I’m ever a mom I want to be like her. Actually, I want to be like her now.

“Get It”

To use a phrase my boyfriend and I use excessively both in and outside of the gym, she has a get it mindset. Meaning, she has a goal and goes after it. No excuses. Just hard work and a tough mindset, especially in the face of opposition. No Excuse Mom

She has other moms thinking she’s putting them down and trying to make them feel bad. I see a woman who worked her butt off – literally – to get to a place she was happy with, and wants to let others know it’s possible. She’s trying to help, and she’s being demonized. Yet she’s the kind of woman I can look up to. She’s gettin’ it, and she makes me want to even more.

Shortly after I heard about her, a guy we’d met on the street during Broken Hearts Ministry gave his life to Jesus. Then he started gettin’ it, in his own way. In a way that said Jesus is Lord, and I’m going to pursue him, change my life, and tell others about how drastically Jesus changed and saved me. What he told me was that those friends don’t appreciate his trying to help, and basically want to drag him back down to where he was. He’s trying to help, all they see is condemnation or a crazy person.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

What’s wrong with us? Why is it that when we should be inspired to greatness, we get bitter and tear each other down instead? Could it be our own weakness and insecurity? That when we see a high standard or different way of living being set, rather than face our own lack of greatness and perseverance, we attack and bring down those who are doing what we only wish we could?

I’m reading Heaven Invades Earth, and Bill Johnson says it brilliantly:

“Those who strive for balance become anemic. The word balance has come to mean middle of the road – of no threat to people or the devil, with little risk, and above all…the best way to keep our nice image intact…while we huddle in groups of like-minded people, those with faith blaze a trail that threatens all of our comfort zones. Faith offends the stationary. People of great faith are hard to live with. Their reasoning is otherwordly…We either become like them or avoid them. We find their lifestyle either contagious or offensive…there’s something amazing about unbelief – it is able to fulfill its own expectations. Unbelief is safe because it takes no risk and almost always gets what it expects.”

If we expect average, we get average. If we assume all moms should be out of shape and tired, we’ll aspire no higher.  We partner in our anemic mindsets, so when a Maria Kang comes along, we’re offended when we should be inspired. Or when a Bill Johnson comes along, we call him a heretic instead of being encouraged to pursue a supernatural lifestyle.

No Excuses.

Entrepreneur, Chris Brogan, titled his last book, “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth”. The description  says, “Do you ever wonder where you fit in? Do you sometimes get that feeling that you have something much bigger to offer the universe, but then it fills you with fear and anxiety, so you think maybe I’ll just pay it safe?”

Jesus did not fit in. Maria Kang does not fit in. My friend Robert does not fit in. Yet these are the “freaks” that are shaking us from the doldrums and saying, “Hey, there’s a better way to live, and it’s possible!” These are the freaks that shall inherit the earth, refusing to play it safe.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of average and safe. I’m ready for those people who challenge me to a higher standard, so I can live a life worth living. Stop seeing a threat and see an inspiration. There’s so much more waiting for us, we have only to reach out and grab a hold. Get it!

 

 

Why Knowing the Season We’re in Matters

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I admit, the word “season” is incredibly overused and whenever I use it, I think of a Stuff Christians Like blog post joking about how much Christians love to use this word. But hey, it’s a good word, so I guess that’s why. And I plan to use it excessively in this post…

That’s because it’s important to know what season you’re in. Why is that, Holly? Well I’m glad you asked. 2 main reasons: 1) Different seasons require different behavior. 2) Knowing is half the battle (in the words of GI Joe).

Different Seasons Require Different Behavior

changing seasons

I’m from Colorado, a place where there are actually seasons. (Californians, I can explain the concept of an actual Winter later). When snow falls and ice forms, a person would be crazy to keep wearing shorts and expect to start their car in the morning and drive off right away. Instead, you must adapt by bundling up and leaving the house 10 minutes early to warm up your car, chip ice off the windshield, and shovel snow from underneath your tires.

So it is with life. When Jesus came to earth, some asked him why his disciples were not fasting, as if they were “less than”. Jesus replied, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” He goes on to explain how you can’t put new wine into old wineskins or they will burst, and you’ll lose both the wineskin and the wine.

They were missing the point that God was in front of them, so in a time meant for celebration, they were attempting to mourn because that’s what had always been done. That’s what good religious folk did. They missed it.

The new season may look entirely different from the old one, and if we keep doing the same things and approaching life in the old way, something’s gonna burst. Personal example (that’s only taken me 7 months to get): I am in a relationship with a destination of forever. If I keep living and thinking like I did as a single person without a mindset of prepping for marriage, it will “burst” our relationship. An independent, self-centered, and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of thinking is old wine. It’s not going to set us up for the best possible relationship.

Or, if the way you experience the Holy Spirit is through tons of quiet time and prayer, but He’s called you to a season of pouring into people, then you’ll have to adapt and learn how to hear Him, knowing that he’ll give grace to experience him in the new season of busyness. Even if everyone  else around you is still in a season of doing things the way you used to.The point is that neither is wrong or right, but a matter of knowing where God is moving right now and how he wants you to respond.

Knowing is Half the Battle

We all want to be effective in ministry, right? Sometimes effective seasons end to make room for more effectiveness. But if we don’t know that, we may stay stagnant, fighting towards progress with old weapons, but never really getting anywhere. It’s time to move on.

A few verses later, Jesus tells his disciples to go to Israel, NOT to the Gentiles or Samaritans. Why? Isn’t everyone supposed to hear the gospel and receive salvation? Of course, but God has his timing and divine order. He wasn’t leaving out the Gentiles, but he had an order in mind to follow for the ideal outcome, and the disciples needed to know it was the time to reach Israel first.

Jesus then tells his disciples that where their message and miracles are not accepted, they should shake the dust off their feet and take their peace with them. Seems unloving and impatient to me. But how quickly would the gospel have spread if, in those early day, they stayed at the home where they had to convince, prove love, be faithful, and wait for them to accept Christ? How would their new faith have handled it? Probably not well. They were to build up those who were hungry and willing, and in turn, it probably built up their own faith in working miracles and telling people about Jesus. They probably stayed excited, not discouraged.

I absolutely believe there are seasons for waiting, being patient and faithful, and pushing through difficulty. In Matthew 10, that wasn’t the season. What if they believed it was? Our usual ways of thinking or religious mindsets might constrain us from what God wants to do if we’re not sensitive to moving with his Spirit.

I just left a ministry I’ve been a part of for 7 years. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve driven by them at the exact time they’re on the street. I look as I drive by to see who’s there and miss it terribly. It is my experience of God saying that, for me, now is not the time for that specific demographic of people. Do I know why? Nope. But it’s his order and plan, and just because now is not the time doesn’t mean it won’t ever be again. If I keep trying to hang onto the old season, I might miss what God wants to do right now. Then, I can’t be effective in either place.

If you’re anything like me, you’re always searching for the right way to live, spread the Gospel, do business, etc. Like there’s one solution that’s perfect and you just have to find it. Yet life is ever-changing and we have to adapt with it. Just like marketing, the economy, social media, technology, what worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow.  It’s already outdated and if we’re not in tune with the trends, we will miss out, or even worse, lose significantly.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was, at the start of my day, to ask God what he had for me. I encourage you to live your life in that way. Daily ask God what he has for you, and monthly ask what season it is and how you need to adapt.

That’s when we find that “sweet spot”…the place where God seems to be in everything we do, because we’re being guided by Him in the present, not by the past.