Homeless Ministries Finding New Approaches for Improvement

( [email protected] ) Jan 14, 2004 10:41 AM EST

Recently, much attention has been made on the issue of homelessness. The Baptist homeless ministries are addressing the issue of homelessness in pursuance of making real change and to find what needs to be done to improve the lives of today’s homeless population. They have also told the difficulties they are facing in raising funds because of the negative connotations people have about the issue of homelessness.

According to Associated Baptist Press, it has been reported that new approaches to helping the homeless people are on the way, especially focusing on finding jobs and permanent housing for them.

Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said providing meals, clothes, and temporary housing are essential but now they are trying to go for a long term change by helping them find jobs and permanent housing, not simply ending in providing temporary need.

Rick Brenny, an executive director of Jefferson Street Baptist Center in Louisville, Ky., which deals primarily with the mentally ill and substance-abusing homeless, noted that providing permanent-support housing is a more “cost-effective” and the service is “cheaper than providing food, hospital care, substance-abuse treatment and mental-health counseling to people who remain on the street.”

Jefferson Street Baptist Center is already on its way to open an 11-unit housing complex for the mentally ill and substance-abused homeless, which will serve as a permanent place for them to live.

However, many Christian leaders commented that what is really needed is spiritual revival among the homeless population in order to bring an effective result, Associated Baptist Press reported.

“Ministries providing food, clothing and job training are effectively meeting immediate needs. But those efforts need to be combined with a spiritual effort to transform lives and move people toward attaining their own housing,” said Charles Little, volunteer leader and deacon at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas.

Brenny also noted the good results that came out due to the spiritual efforts put into the homeless people. He said 38 percent of people served at his ministry receiving spiritual help find housing and in addition 40 percent of them are on their way to make change compare to other ministries whose number come out to be only 30 percent that are finding housing.

According to statistics from the National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness, two thirds of the homeless population report either substance abuse or mental-health problems. 38 percent of the homeless population indicate alcohol issues, 26 percent say they have drug problems, and 39 percent have some form of mental-health problem.

Despite such findings, NGO programs do not receive enough funds to provide needed medication and treatment and only one in 100 homeless people enter a rehabilitation program, R.B. Cooper, a minister of church and community outreach at First Baptist Church in San Antonio, noted.

Little, the Dallas deacon, said the only hope for the homeless is God in finding direction in their lives.

Gerald Davis, a consultant in the Baptist General Convention of Texas Missions Equipping Center, also mentioned the importance of being there for the homeless people, showing them that churches care about them, and the message of hope and salvation are there for them as well.

Homeless ministries show needy individuals that churches care about them and want to help, Davis added. The efforts let the homeless know the message of hope and redemption is for them as well.

"The most effective thing is being there for them," Davis said. "Let them know you are serious and sincere about wanting a relationship with them. Let them know you are serious and sincere about helping them."

Another important factor that will lead to have successful results among homeless ministries is to change the perception of Christians about homelessness. Most Christians feel the problem is homelessness is not improving.

Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said the public believes homelessness is an accepted byproduct of capitalism. Homeless people incorrectly are viewed as being in their condition because they do not want to work, he said. He added that Christians do not see the number of homeless people is decreasing.

Jimmy Dorrell, executive director of Mission Waco, also mentioned the importance of Christians who are doing business to give a homeless person a job which will give a better opportunity for the homeless to make improvements in their lives.

"In the kingdom of God you can't give up on these people," Dorrell commented. "But it's hard to convince results-oriented church people of that. Change may be as small as getting a day-labor job today or finding a safe place to sleep for a few days."