Acknowledging the homeless

A quick walk from one office to another - I see two homeless people, a large cinema complex, a homeless person and a large Uber sign.

Then another homeless person.

An all-you-can-eat restaurant, a global bank, building works.

Another homeless person. Ironically, he occupies the space in front of billboards hailing the achievements of this city. 

We’ll probably walk past several homeless people in a town or city. In 2017 government figures suggest there’s been a 130% rise in people sleeping on our streets in six years. What should our response be? 

What, then?

First, it’s worth admitting we don’t have the answer for what is a complex social issue. There's far more that could be debated, but in the end one person has more than another because the world is broken. It’s unjust. No Christian can claim moral superiority over those who have ended up on the streets.

Where the issue is complex and we feel bad about it, the easy response is to defer it to government or charity. Deny it’s there. Smartphones have made us experts in walking without looking up.

Yet, how dehumanising must it be when hundreds of people walk past you each day trying to deny you are there? We are called to undo injustices, perhaps not as movers and shakers, but with small acts of grace.

Surely, we should counter with acknowledgement. Acknowledge the homeless person who is there, look at them as we would someone else, smile at them. Ask how they’re doing.

The opportunities are many

We could speak about it with others, maybe even write to our MPs, support organisations like Christians Against Poverty who work to avoid people ending up homeless. Pack a bit more for lunch ready for that moment we get asked if we can offer something.

The opportunities are many, but the answers are few.

Better, however, to acknowledge it than hope it goes away. And we are given every reason to because more than acknowledging it, Jesus identifies with those sitting cold and dirty in our underpasses.

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat… whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35, 40)