A situation at church...


10 Years
Mar 2, 2009
Tuscaloosa, AL
We have come upon a difficult situation at our church, which is located in the middle of the city. Increasing groups of homeless people are sleeping on the front porch, which isn't a problem in itself, but the people are trashing the entrance to the church. We're talking pee, poop, and vomit in large quantities. Most of the congregation was unaware of this until today, because staff has been getting out there at the crack of dawn every day and cleaning it.
My initial reaction was anger, but how can we be angry with people who are mentally ill/suffering from addiction? How can we help these people without enabling them? Our pastor has encouraged us to brainstorm solutions, but I am at a loss. The easy thing to do is call the cops and have them removed, but it's definitely not the right thing. Yes, they'd get a hot meal and a toilet in jail, but I don't like the notion of handing ugly problems to others, and it sends a terrible message to those in need.
These people have been tossed aside by everyone, so how could they have any respect for themselves, much less the front porch of a building? Ideas for how to be kind and helpful without letting ourselves be taken advantage of?
Could you donate money to a local charity for the homeless, and then give the homeless at the church a warning before you call the cops? The donation would make you all feel better about calling the cops if need be. I don't know. Im just suggesting things.
Create a point of slef policeing with reward. If when staff comes in its clean then they get a cheap breakfast.Instant oatmeal. Or a donut and coffee.. If any mess then everybody goes without. It could put them into a reward for the group but nobody gets "punishment".
Does your community offer other services for the homeless? Oftentimes homeless people decline to avail themselves of options like homeless shelters, Salvation Army, etc. because they don't want to submit to rules regarding alcohol and drugs, or they don't want to be forced to attend religious services required by some of these organizations.

If there are no other services then I don't see how you turn them away but perhaps you can engage them to participate in a way that is contributing to the congregation - if they are going to sleep on the steps, offer them coffee in the morning but with the expectation that they clean up around themselves and help ready the church for worship services.

Doesn't seem to be asking too much.
Thank you GaNewChick, that's what I just thought. My initial thought was, "If you give someone work, you also give them some dignity." Now I know someone will jump all over that and say how many of them won't work. Blah, blah, blah. Why not ask them. Anyone in your church hiring? Even part-time is some sort of dignity.
There's a church in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I can't remember the name. But it's a catholic church. They are dealing with the same problems. The city has said that they will take away their permit if it doesn't stop. You could do some investigating on what they are doing to change things. It may help. They are the homeless shelter in downtown Green Bay. Sorry I couldn't help with the name.
Our beliefs dictate our actions and in many cases there are practical matters at hand, such as yours. There are a great many Christians on the forum and hopefully this will work as a good discussion.

Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Modern Christianity has become quid pro quo; tithe and heaven will open the gates in return with prosperity is one common one. The essence of Christianity is to do exceedingly well for those of exceptional unworthiness. If your congregation takes the initiative to embrace the people on the steps and treat them as kindly as the well heeled, it is the Christian thing to do. More than likely you will be lied to and taken advantage of in the process. I pray for the best for your church and that the Holy Spirit will guide you.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom