Wrestling With Helping the Homeless

For many years our church was involved with helping people who had addiction problems. One of my best friends is a recovering addict and he was my mentor. We were taught and our program followed some guiding principles. The first step in recovery is admitting your problem. The second was to detox or stop using. The third was to then see what the real issues are you are medicating through sponsorship/mentorship and meetings of open sharing. Along with learning what issues you are dealing with, you also learn principles for living “Life on life’s terms.”

One thing everyone in recovery is taught is, “You are not a banker, hotel, restaurant or taxi.” In other words, addicts are experts at getting others to take care of them rather than being responsible for themselves. When an addict became, “Willing” to do what it took to get clean and sober, then we were willing to help them find their way. But, if they are not willing, there is nothing anyone can do for them.

With this backdrop, I’ve become part of a church family that is really big on feeding, sheltering, doing things for the homeless, many of whom are addicts. Some of the 43,000 homeless in Florida are people who have been hammered by our economy and found themselves unemployed and in trouble for the first time in their lives. But my experience would say the larger number of homeless, the most visible homeless are people who have chosen their addiction over everything else and have accepted living “off the land” is just part of their lot.

In many ways recently the Lord has been showing me somethings. First, there is no one righteous. Each of us miss the mark. Only by God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness is anyone made fit for life. Second, I know how poorly I handle it when life throws me a curve ball. How well would I have done if I was raised in the foster care system, never feeling like I belonged anywhere? How well would I have done if I went to Viet Nam and got an arm or leg blown off or saw friends killed or had to kill others? Some people can buck it up/suck it up and plow through those things but others can’t seem to find their way.

Two weeks ago with all this going on in my head, I’m walking down the street in West Palm Beach after a nice dinner out. A scruffy man was sitting at a street side table and when I got right to him, he flipped up a card board sign that read, “Homeless Vet Please Help.” I walked by ignoring him. I walked about a half of block and sensed the Lord say, “I have given to you freely, help him.” I looked in my wallet and the smallest bill I had was a $10! I never give them a dollar let alone a ten spot. I went back and said, “This is against my better judgement but i am supposed to give you this.” He took my money and my hand and said, “Let me show you what you are giving to.” He put my hand on a bullet wound in his head. He pulled his shirt up and showed the scars of battle and then he folded his shoe back, showing half his foot was gone. I walked away humbled.

I began asking myself, knowing me the way I do, “How would I have handled that loss?”

Last night volunteering for the first time in a cold weather shelter for the homeless, I met a guy who never knew his parents and was raised as a ward of the county system. He had a real name but said everyone called him, “Charlie Brown.” I’m not sure if that is derogatory or not but don’t think I’d want that to be my handle.

Again, I began asking myself, “How would I have handled that?”

What I am attempting to do is forget myself and have an abiding relationship with Jesus. When He says help or give I will do so. I am going to stay out of my own head and thoughts and trust if the Lord asks me to help then He is up to something in that person’s life. At the least, He loves each person no matter what.


About Scott Ranck

Enjoying life with my wife Gayle and our Yorkie, Zoe boy. I've come to believe life begins when through brokenness I can embrace it fully and openly. I've learned the human drama is an adventure and all of us are made of the same stuff. The Lord is the only being who knows me fully and he has an individual educational plan of life long learning for me and I'm enrolled. This blog is all about what I'm learning.
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4 Responses to Wrestling With Helping the Homeless

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love this Scott, many are not what we perceive

  2. Harry Prior says:

    Great job Scott! perhaps the old saying ” I won’t judge you until I walk in your shoes” isn’t too far off ! Also the scripture ” unto who much is given, much is required” comes to mind! Thanks for sharing!

  3. You are right that many are homeless because they want to be or because of various sins. Having ministered in a rescue mission for several years and seeing the same men for most of those years does tend to make you less likely to help. Even when I was on the board of a food bank and volunteered in it I saw so much abuse that it was pitiful making me feel like we were just Welfare Part B, I have tried to take folks with homeless vets signs to the VA and get into a program, but they refused possibly because they were not vets or already getting 100% benefits and used the begging for a part-time nontaxable income. I have given people food only to look back and see them toss it away because all they really wanted was cash. All that can make you pretty jaded, but I still try to help people and listen to Him saying to give. There are people with real needs and we have to work to be sure we don’t deny them help while we filter out the scammers. Keep up the good work!!!

  4. Baptized a homeless guy last Sunday. Ran into him in the post office the other day and he told me more of his story. Had to do with guard duty at the Marine Barracks in Beirut when it was blown up, and he had just sent a young Marine who wasn’t feeling well back to the barracks for the day. His issue is PTSD. I’m learning not to prejudge anyone.

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