How should I help the homeless?
I live in a city where there are a lot of homeless people. I need to know what I as a Christian need to do to help them. I give money at my local grocery store that goes to a food bank for those in need, I also leave a care package at the bus stop where I catch the bus. Is there more I should be doing?
"For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me" (Mark 14:7).
There will always be poor people. The reasons are varied: some don't want to work, others spend all they may make on drugs, alcohol, or gambling, and others are suffering from mental illness. Therefore, the first thing that we have to admit is that the problem isn't going away nor is it generally solvable.
What you are doing isn't wrong, but I would like you to notice that it keeps you distant from the problem. Consider that we are to be lights in the world so that glory can go to God. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
My grandfather lived during the Great Depression. He would be approached by people asking for a small amount of money to get coffee. Grandpa suspected that most were just saving up the money they collected to buy alcohol, so he would point out a nearby diner and offer to buy them a meal while they talked. I believe he said only one or two people ever took him up on the offer.
I try to do similar things. I help people I know are in trouble. I don't generally hand out money that can be used for the wrong purposes, especially to people I don't know. Instead, I look to get something that goes a bit beyond solving the immediate problem. Sure, I know I've been taken advantage of a few times despite my precautions, but I did get to talk to people about improving their lives and following after God to solve their problems.
Helping people is about helping them see that God's way can lead to solutions to their difficulties. But that means getting to know people and finding out what their true problems are.