Increasingly cities across our nation are passing laws banning or placing restrictions that, in effect, ban feeding the homeless. In addition, other laws are being passed to try to hide the homeless by banning them from public areas, loitering, etc. A recent example of this may be seen in the link I will list below, but according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, last month at least 31 cities had passed or were passing similar ordinances and many other were considering it nationwide. Homelessness is a problem. But, rather than dealing with the causes of the problem and helping solve the problem, city councils and legislatures are increasingly making the problem worse for the homeless by passing laws that make the helping of homeless individuals by feeding them illegal. Those who feed them are subject to fines and jail time.
My question to our nation is simply “Have we no compassion?” Are our upper and middle class comforts more important than people going hungry? I am not so naïve as to know there are many causes of homelessness. I also know that once you are trapped in that condition in your life, for whatever reason, it is very difficult to get out of it. I have worked with homeless people for many years and understand that everywhere they turn there are roadblocks. I can give you many examples, but two will be sufficient.
The first is a young man I met at a weekly dinner for homeless and needy people our church held every week in Hutchinson. This young man was trying to get a driver’s license in Kansas because he had a job offer but needed a driver’s license. He was from Lousiana and all of his papers had been lost in the Katrina floods. The problem was that he needed a valid picture i.d. or his birth certificate in order to get his driver’s license. He had no birth certificate and his Louisiana license had expired. I tried to help him get his birth certificate from Louisiana unsuccessfully for two months. The church paid the fee of around $60 and I helped him fill out the paperwork and sent his expired license. I got a letter back, not returning the fee, that said they could not send his birth certificate without a current picture I.D. Of course he couldn’t get his picture I.D. in Kansas because he didn’t have a birth certificate which he couldn’t get because he didn’t have a valid picture I.D. And around and around we went. Calls and further letters made no impact—the law was the law, rules were rules and neither could be ‘bent’ for the benefit of a needy person.
A second example happened yesterday. Yesterday my wife and I were driving through downtown Wichita. This is an area where the Lord’s Diner feeds over 1000 people who are hungry every night of the week—not all who are homeless but many who are in that condition. We watched an obviously homeless man crossing the street. He had a full backpack, dirty and shabby clothes, no coat in the chilling wind, was unshaven and stared blankly ahead with eyes that showed an absence of any hope. My wife remarked—-How do people expect a person in that condition to be able to get a job? Who would hire him the way he looks?” The answer is obvious that no employer would hire him, or even let him in the door, in this condition. But there’s nowhere for him to go to clean up and if he did, only the clothes on his back are what he would have to put back on his body. He has no address and no employers hires someone without an address. Without an address the person cannot get a driver’s license. Getting a driver’s license in Kansas is difficult for the homeless, if not impossible as seen above.
I think this country that refers to itself as a “Christian nation” should be ashamed. I recently read a biography of Mother Theresa who spent most of her life in the worst slums of Calcutta, India, with the “untouchables” to give them, with the aid of her fellow nuns, care and love when they were dying. The story also told of her visit to the slums of New York City in the 1970s, and how she was shocked that the richest nation on earth would allow people to go hungry and un-housed. This was in the beginning years of the AIDS crisis, and those with AIDS were treated in our country like the “untouchables” in India. So, Mother Teresa and her sister nuns set up a mission station for the poor in NYC to deal with the homeless and offer assistance and love to those who were destitute. She also opened houses for those who had been abandoned by their families and were dying of AIDS s0 they could be loved and cared for in their final days! You see, Mother Theresa had the idea that all people were God’s children and deserved to be treated with dignity and respect—-no matter what their station in life! If you have read your Bibles that some are so fond of waving, we will find that God’s intent for his children always has been that each person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, for we are all made in the image of God. Have we fallen so far morally and spiritually in our country that we are losing sight of that? Recent events indicate it.
Shame on those who not only are not working to alleviate the sordid condition of homelessness but are actively passing laws to prevent those who do have a heart and compassion to help them.
Jesus told a parable about this: It’s a parable of judgment of those who follow in the footsteps of the Ft. Lauderdale City Council——
When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then, the righteous will answer him “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? And the king will answer them ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me! (Matthew 25:31-40)
For a link to the Fort Lauderdal action go to: http://www.theguardian.com/us -news/2014/nov/05/fort-lauderdale-pastors-arnold-abbott-arrested-feeding-homeless