“And I feel like a stranger
In the land where I was born
And I live like an outlaw.
And I’m always on the run… “
From “What About Me?” Quicksilver Messenger Service
I appreciate the opinions expressed so far, both in the comments and in the poll, on the question of what to do when asked for money or other help on the street. I’m a little surprised to find that avoiding eye contact and moving on is the preferred response of choice. I probably shouldn’t be. I think that is what most people do most of the time. Honestly, I’ve done that more often than not.
So far, the comments to the original post recommend, in one form or another, not giving money to people who ask. Yvette, who has been a faithful reader from the beginning of this blog, says she does not give them money. She bases this decision on her friends who work with homeless populations and say it is not helpful to give them money. She does not carry cash, so she can honestly say she doesn’t have money. In an interesting twist, she suggests carrying a list of resources, which could be handed to anyone who asks. I’ve never heard that before.
Another reader concurs with Yvette. He (or she) bases his response on five years of experience working with the homeless population. he suggests that giving money may be the least helpful thing to do, but says he, “I tell them I do not give money out but I always attempt to have a conversation- introduce myself. Ask them a little bit about them self. Often I offer to grab a bite to eat WITH them so that I can both practically help them (food) but more importantly, relationally help them. . . My two cents is to get to know these people. We share the same space, live on the same streets, and all need community.”
I’ve also e-mailed Church Street United Methodist Church, First Baptist, St. John’s Episcopal, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Knoxville Area Rescue Mission and Volunteer Ministries to get their opinions. From the churches I’m particularly curious. If I understand Jesus’ words – and I may not – I think he pretty directly said to feed the hungry and treat everyone as a neighbor. So, how does that shape the church’s response, if at all?
So far, I’ve heard from one of the churches – Church Street United Methodist. In fairness to the others, I’ll say that the person who responded at Church Street, Darryll Rasnake, one of the ministers, knows me, so that might make him more responsive. I’ll say more about his response in a subsequent post. I’ve also heard from a couple of folks at the KARM and, though I haven’t gotten a direct answer to my question to them, Angie Sledge said she will get with me, soon, and Bruce Anderson offered a training program available at KARM for area churches. He also recommended the video below. They are a religious organization, so understand that before you watch. More later.