However, as the economy stays stagnant or experiences a decline, churches become easy prey for those who are looking for a handout. Saint John’s regularly sees people looking for assistance, particularly on Sundays, when most other services are closed.
We have been commanded by Jesus to:
“Feed my sheep”. (John 21:17)
And we are reminded
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40)
The majority of homeless or needy men and women are not dangerous — they’re people just like us, but circumstances have resulted in them being needy. It could happen to every one of us under the right conditions. They are our brothers and sisters.
When a person requests assistance it is not our duty to determine if the request is legitimate, or if they are panhandling. We are told to take care of their needs. But there are ways to care for these people that can satisfy their need in constructive ways.
Worthington Resource Pantry
The Worthington Resource Pantry provides assistance to those in need on a regular basis, and Saint John’s does a terrific job of supplying those goods that they identify they need. Become aware of where the Pantry is located (6700 Huntley Road, 985-1766), and what their hours are (see www.worthingtonresourcepantry.org). The Pantry not only provides food, but also is a source of information for additional available services. You might want to think about volunteering at the Pantry, especially if you have children. And continue to donate food items that are listed in the weekly bulletin.
When approached by a needy person,
- Smile and politely decline any requests for money. But we can still show love and offer to lift them up in prayer.
- DO NOT, DO NOT give money to children! Giving money to children is like paying their families to keep them out of school. It is, in a way, a type of human trafficking.
- If you have the time, listen to their story. That may be more important to them than receiving what they ask for.
- Give them tangible things – some people keep McDonald’s gift cards in their purse or car. This will provide them with a meal; it is usually less than $5 to provide a filling meal at McDonald’s; or offer to take them for a meal and you pay for it.
- Carry some Care Kits in the car; these Ziploc bags contain essentials that are hard to acquire if you are homeless or needy. A typical Care Kit could contain any of the following: water bottle, socks, granola or cereal bar, fruit snack or applesauce cup, cheese/peanut butter crackers, handiwipes (avoid hand sanitizer because of the alcohol content), Kleenex, maxi pads for women, toothbrush and toothpaste, Chapstick, brush and comb, unscented soap, travel shampoo and conditioner, disposable razors, gum or mints (preferably sugar-free). It might be an opportunity for some education of children and teens to have a party to assemble these kits. There is a flyer on the Information Table about creating Care Kits.
- If they need money for medication, take them to a pharmacy and pay for the prescription drugs. The pharmacist will verify the legitimacy of the drug to avoid supplying drugs that would be sold on the street.
- Carry information about services that are available for those in need. Columbus generates a ‘street card’ which identifies places and times for services. Ask the church to keep a stack of these on the Information Table.
In dire emergencies, the rector has a discretionary fund which can be used for emergency needs, but it is not bottomless.
Most importantly, we need to remove the conditions that cause these people to be needy. Call your local legislators and ask that social safety nets be maintained or increased in your city, county and state. Contact local aid agencies to determine what support they need. Remember the old adage:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Our goal, as followers of Jesus, is to remove those obstacles so that everyone has enough food, shelter, and services.
Remember we are all ‘beloved children of God’, regardless of our economic or social status.
Rev deniray mueller, The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 1 July 2019