The other day I was driving and came to a stop behind several other cars at an intersection. There was a raggedly dressed man receiving money from the passenger of a car in the next lane. The man made his way back to the grassy area along the road. He walked with a limp and had a brace on his hand. The skeptic in me wondered if they were real, or was he faking it for sympathy. I did get burned once.
When I was pastor of my first church, a man came in when I was at the church alone. He claimed he needed to get home by bus which cost $60. With some hesitation I told him I would get him the money and take him to the bus station. After stopping at an ATM for the money, I asked him to give me directions to the bus station he needed to get to. He began to take me on a ride through the rural area of Lehigh County into the suburbs of Allentown. I began to become suspicious, and he began to realize it. He asked me to drop him off at a business office park so he could “do me a favor” and take a local bus to the bus terminal. I let him out rather than confront him. He was happy to leave with my $60.
As I drove away from the intersection where the limping man was asking for money, I wondered if I should have helped him in some way. The question is how. Giving him money was not solving his homelessness or disability if they were true.
Would taking him to a homeless shelter have helped? Most shelters are often filled. Often people “max out” their time allowed by the shelter’s rules. Some break the shelter’s rules and are refused entry again. Some people refuse to go to homeless shelters for various reasons.
Maybe taking him to the county welfare office would have helped. He may have qualified for some emergency aid, Maybe not. But immediate housing is not available through the county.
If he really suffers from a disability maybe taking him to the Social Security Disability office would have been a better idea. If you’ve ever dealt with the Social Security Disability office, you are probably cracking up or throwing something at a wall about now. Enough said?
The point here is that solving the problems of homelessness, poverty and disability are complicated, and our nation is doing a terrible job of addressing these problems. Handing out money at a street corner is not going to do it. It doesn’t take a village, it takes a nation. We need to come together and each give our fair share to end these problems. And we need to be creative about the solutions. And we need to elect officials who take these problems seriously and will follow through on finding solutions: politicians who understand that we rise and fall together.
Please stay on topic.