1. These are people. God’s image bearers, and as such they should be treated with love, kindness, dignity, and respect. Even if they are disrespectful to you or themselves, show them the gospel in the way you respond.
2. But for Grace, there go I. We are not better than them because of our physical, mental, or emotional state. In fact, we may be worse off in our self-righteousness.
3. Do NOT give to pan-handlers. I have failed at this many times, but actively try to not do it. We can do so much more for them if they submit to coming and being a part of the body of Christ. It would benefit them greater to come and hear/see the gospel, and the implications of it by how we serve them, rather than giving them a couple bucks to assuage our conscience.
4. Homeless men need to be taught basic skills to re-enter and thrive in society. This requires more time investment and reprogramming than giving them a blanket and a hot cup of soup. Though giving them soup and a means to keep warm is good and right, it will only sustain them for a day, a week at most. Taking them off of the streets, or sending them to a Church/organization that can and teaching them how to function in society, if successful, could sustain him for a life time.
5. Many of them have stories, of a life before (insert: drugs, alcoholism, spouse leaving/cheating, job loss etc.) ask them to hear their story, and you will most often gain their hearts.
6 Many people living on the streets suffer from mild to severe mental illness. Finding creative, no-governmental ways to serve this population could be vital to the renewal of any major city.
7. If you feel safe in doing so, if someone tells you they are hungry, invite them to dine with you at a nearby restaurant, rather than sending them off with a few dollars to “buy food”. If they are truly hungry, most often they will go. This is a great time to share your life and the gospel.
8. There are entire homeless families. Find ways to love and serve their children, and you will often find a way to reach the parents.
9. If they are hustlers, they have been to multiple churches/social/government organizations in the area. Call other local churches to find out who and what they know.
10. In some cases there is a measure of entitlement, as though they are owed what they are asking you for. Overcome this with the love of Christ, and the gospel.
11. There is little greater than seeing someone restored spiritually, physically, and culturally.
There is much I am still learning, but knowing these things has helped me a great deal in loving the poor, marginalized, and homeless as well as they will allow.