Fr Chris offers this reflection for Homelessness week (18-25 February)
During this last week I was struck by the story of a woman who is now homeless on the streets of Manchester – some may have glimpsed the story on television.
The woman – without being sensational – spoke about finding some cardboard boxes outside a supermarket which she could take apart and use to put on the pavement. She did so to prevent her freezing to the pavement in zero temperatures.
I find that frightening. The idea of not having a safe home, a bed within that home and heating to sustain me is a terrifying idea. Imagine being so cold that you might freeze to the bed!
There are many stories about people being homeless – and I fear many myths which surround them.
There are approximately 4000 rough sleepers in any one night on the streets of Britain. That does not count the “hidden” homeless – those sleeping on a friend’s floor, or those in derelict buildings, those in temporary accommodation which they must leave the next day etc
It is all too easy to judge the homeless person – and to believe that it is their own fault, or that they choose to be homeless, or even pretend to be homeless in order to get help.
So how does Scripture tell us to react to the poor and outcast of society?
- We are to show respect to the poor. (James 2)
- We are to respond in love and compassion to everyone in need. (Luke 10)
- We are to offer help, especially to believers. (Galatians 6:10)
- We are to offer hospitality, clothing, shelter and food. (Matthew 25:31-46)
- We are to offer fellowship and peace. (Romans 12)
- Most of all, according to Scripture, we are to love. (I Cor 13)
This doesn’t always mean giving money or food, although we shouldn’t be closed to that. But it does always mean being patient, being kind, not putting ourselves over the other person, but bearing other’s burdens and enduring with them.