In the latest episode of Real Hope with Glenn Cranfield, I had the opportunity to talk with Mike and Linda Curb on their advocacy and work in the homeless community. When I asked Mike what got him interested in helping the homeless specifically, he mentioned his love of his city of Nashville and that he didn’t want to see the problem evolve here like it has in LA. Out of the entire homeless population in the United States, 47% live in California. If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles and seen Skid Row firsthand, you can understand why Mike has a desire to keep Nashville from going down that path.
There are many wonderful organizations out there that focus on helping the homeless by offering resources they need to escape homelessness and find a better life. But, what does it look like to keep people from becoming homeless in the first place? How do we catch those that are at-risk and help them before they spend their first night sleeping on the street?
Finding Those in Danger is Difficult
One of the biggest hurdles in helping those that are at risk of becoming homeless is simply finding them. Typically speaking, people that are on the verge of losing their homes aren’t prone to ask for help. The struggles of addiction, abuse, and financial hardship are extremely personal. People are much more likely to try and solve the problem themselves or run away rather than reach out for help, expressing vulnerability. Unfortunately, that’s just human nature.
Someone who goes out of their way to ask for help from a local church or nonprofit before they lose their home dramatically reduces their risk of living on the street, but those cases aren’t common. Usually, by the time homeless aid organizations are even aware of the situation someone is in, the goal is to get them out of homelessness. The reality is that many organizations built to serve the homeless community don’t have the resources or capability to seek out those who are on the path of becoming homeless.
If the organizations who are made to help the homeless aren’t in the best position to catch those at risk of becoming homeless, then who is? The answer is twofold: neighbors and advocates.
Love Thy Neighbor
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’.”Matthew 22:36-39
We’re all familiar with this quote from Jesus and the wisdom in it. But are we too familiar with it? Sometimes when we hear something over and over, (the What Would Jesus Do? tagline comes to mind) sometimes we can forget the power of the words. We are called to love our neighbors. And loving someone demands action.
Your neighbors are everyone you meet. The people you work with, your friends at church and yes, the homeless people you pass. If God places someone in your life that is hurting, the action of loving them also means reaching out to them. It doesn’t call for a grand gesture, but a simple act of kindness goes a long way. Think of when you received a greeting card out of the blue or someone bought you a cup of coffee surprisingly. You felt an immense amount of gratitude and joy, because it showed you the person was thinking about you. Your neighbor was caring about you.
While people may not be inclined to seek out a nonprofit or social service to help them deal with the instability in their life, they very well may open up to a friend. Simply admitting you need help is a huge step and the first hurdle to overcome on the path toward stability. For many people, it’s the largest obstacle of all.
Don’t ignore the signs if you have a friend, coworker, small group member or any other acquaintance that you think might be in a difficult place in their life. People who suffer from things like depression and alcoholism are much more likely to become homeless and need a strong support system around them. Your friendship and compassion may very well be the guardrail that keeps them from going over the edge.
Homelessness is a systemic problem. By that I mean, there are certain laws and regulations that can make the likelihood of someone becoming homeless increase or decrease. Changing government policies might feel too big for one person to take on, but you have more power than you think. Especially when it comes to your local city governments.
There are a lot of resources out there for policies that help prevent homelessness. If you’re feeling called to commit to this issue, one of the best uses of your time is to educate yourself on what others have done and what is working throughout the country.
Did you know that the Nashville government has a Homeless Impact Division? These are dedicated men and women who’ve made it their job to fight homelessness from the top down, so to speak. Through them, you can learn what our city is doing to keep as many people off the streets as possible. They are also an excellent resource if you have any policy or ideas you want to consider getting enacted.
The lie we often tell ourselves is that a problem is too big for us to handle, and that’s just not true. I would say that the people who impact the world the most refuse to believe any problem is too big. Never forget Phillippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Remember, any policy, regulation, or program that helped anyone started with someone who thought of it and then followed through to make it happen.
Never Miss An Opportunity To Work Together
As an individual, you are capable of amazing things when working alone, but the good news is you don’t have to. There are many incredible organizations like Nashville Rescue Mission and others that are wholly dedicated to helping the homeless community. These are excellent places to not only find programs you can participate in but people who share your passion.
There is something about working alongside others that is energizing and rejuvenating. Because we live in such an interconnected society, it takes you practically no time to get connected with a group of people working toward the same goals as you.
If you want to feel inspired, go take a listen to the latest episode of Real Hope. Hearing Mike talk about his passion and what he and Linda have done will show you what’s possible when someone follows their calling.