How to appease the cops in your homeless ministry by Travis Sharpe

cop

 

I have have always appreciated law enforcement. For as long as I can remember, my dad was a deputy sheriff. I grew up in that environment and even dreamed of following in my dads footsteps. But the Lord had other plans for my life, which I am thankful for now.

One thing I learned from my dad is that cops have a tough job. One reason it’s tough is because they typically see the bad side of everyone. They deal with the bad teenagers. They get called to homes where they see the ugly side of family life. The list goes on and on for them.

And it is no different when it comes to the homeless. When a homeless person causes trouble, the cops are called. When someone gets scared by a homeless person, the cops are called. When a shelter has to remove a person for breaking the rules, the cops are called.

Because they continually see the negative side, it’s very easy for them to lose any compassion for the homeless that they once had. Much of the time, your average cop has little or no patience for the homeless….or those of us who minister to them. To be sure, there are some in law enforcement who still do their best to help, they have compassion even though they see the dark side everyday. I know many of them.

If you work in homeless ministry very long, you will run into the cops. Sometimes you will need them! They have came to my rescue more than one time when I was backed into a corner and I was very thankful for the assistance!

You will encounter the police a lot, especially if you minister in homeless camps, under the bridges, in abandoned homes and other places like that. Many times we have to trespass just to get to where the homeless live. Sooner or later you will get caught by the cops!

Have you ever thought about what you would say if you were approached by a police officer when you were in the middle of homeless ministry?

I didn’t think so. So let me let you in on a secret here. Most cops don’t want you in the homeless camps and other places messing with the homeless. In fact, they might even see your charity as part of the problem. (Sometimes they might be right about that too.) If you tell the average cop that you are taking food, clothes and blankets to the homeless, they might be unfriendly to you.

Why, you ask? because they are the ones who are called when it’s time to evict them for whatever reason. They see all the piles of trash. They see the bad part. They see you as someone who help to pile the trash up.

What do I say when approached by a police officer? Simple. I tell him or her that I am ministering to the homeless and that my primary objective is to help them get off the streets and into a shelter or home. I let them know that I am trying to convince people to leave the camps and get somewhere safe and stable.

By giving that answer, I usually get the full support of the police officer. Why? Because now he sees me as part of the solution and not part of the problem. He knows that I am not there to simply help people pile up stuff in the woods and create a bigger mess for him down the road.

It has been my experience that this type of response will gain you a friend, a needed friend.

So have you ever been questioned by a cop when you were out trying to help someone? Tell me your experience in the comment section below.