Saving the World, One Dollar at a Time
The "Night of the Living Homeless" episode of South Park really hit home with me since Hawai'i has such a high homeless population.I spent my teenage years near Fort Scott, Kansas, and still remember the first time a homeless person came to our town. EVERYONE was talking about. People came into the restaurant I was working at and would ask "did you see the homeless guy? Apparently he's from Michigan."After spending much of the day begging next to the bank, a few cops picked the man up and brought him to a homeless shelter 30 miles away, and people slowly (or not-so-slowly) forgot about what they had seen.When I moved to Hawai'i, I was instantly greeted with homelessness everywhere I looked - and it's no surprise, really. The price of housing is ridiculous here, and most jobs don't pay extra to counter the high cost of living.There are "blue tent beaches" where the homeless literally live on the beach in blue tents because they can't afford housing. Even some people who have full time jobs will beg on the streets in the evenings because even with their full time salary, they cannot afford their rent or food for their families.So what's a person to do?I've heard too many mixed opinions on this to count, but there seem to be two main schools of thought: "Don't give money to homeless people because they'll just use it on drugs, or "Give money to homeless people because it's what Jesus would do."When I'm driving home from wherever I happened to have gone, and I see someone with a "Hungry, please help" sign, I tend to err on the side of "it's what Jesus would do, give the poor guy a hamburger."My church has a food bank program, as do many churches in the area. Low-income families can go in once a week or once a month and receive free groceries and financial counseling from the church. My church also gives out clothing and other household items that may be useful to those in need.But is this enough?As someone who makes more money, am I obligated to help those who are poorer than me? And if so, to what extent? Is it simply enough to give a dollar to a man in passing and tell him to "be well," or should I be doing something else, like offering him a place to stay or helping him find a job interview? What if I don't have the space in my home? How far should I go to help "get someone off the street"? And should I be helping more than one person off the street?Thoughts?