The Most Important Question To Ask Before You Help Someone

Sometimes when I am helping a person who is homeless, (or anyone for that matter) I get stuck and I am just not sure what to do. Just last week I had a call from a gentleman who was facing homelessness and he wanted us to buy him a tent and some blankets.

question mark picture

As I worked through this situation with him, I had decisions to make about how we would help him.

Wanting to help him in a more substantial way, I offered him help getting to a shelter and even offered to pay for two weeks for he and his wife (that shelter charges $13 per night after the 5th night).

Have you ever gotten confused while trying to figure out how to help someone? Me too. Sometimes it can be hard to know where the line between helping and enabling is. The gentleman I mentioned above didn’t want to go to the shelter, he wanted to go camp out in the woods

With this story in mind, I want to share with you one of the questions I ask myself as I am working through these type of requests that I get.

Is there a probable positive outcome?

That one simple question can bring clarity to your decision making process. Or to put it another way, is the assistance you are considering likely to have a positive outcome for them? Will they be better off because of what you did? Will it put them closer to overcoming homelessness or simply help them to stay in it longer?

In the situation last week, he wanted to stay out in the woods in a tent instead of going to the shelter. His wife has some serious health problems and the forecast called for it to be very cold over the weekend. In a tent in the woods they would be exposed to the elements, risk being run off by the police and have a hard time with generally everything.

In other words, if  helped them set up camp in the woods, it wasn’t likely to have a positive outcome. I want to offer help that has a probable positive outcome.

I know that many homeless people despise shelters. They don’t want to be around them. But the reality is, if he would humble himself and go, there is a good chance that his life could improve. They have safe warm shelter, two meals every day, case workers, access to programs and more.

Simply put

There is never an easy answer and sometimes the complaints people have are very legitimate. Sometimes what we decide will be right and sometimes it will be wrong.

But I do believe that if you will you ask yourself this question and think it through, you can get closer to the most appropriate answer and come closer giving help that will have a positive outcome for the person in need.

Question: Have you ever had a situation that you were unsure about? Tell us about it in the comment section below, I’d love to hear your story!

Helping The Homeless On A Limited Budget by Travis Sharpe

One of the biggest frustrations when you have a big heart and want to help people, is a limited budget. It seems that there are endless needs and most of them take money to be met.

 

Numbers And Finance

Time and time again I have felt helpless because the answer seemed to be money…and I just didn’t have it to give.

Have you ever felt like this? If you only had the money, you could help so many people?

If so, you’re in good company because I believe everyone who has ever helped the homeless has felt that way at one point or the other. Here are my thoughts on this.

There has to be a starting point

When I first started ministering to the homeless in 1996, I had nothing. I was a young, broke Bible College student. I had a job that payed minimum wage and I rarely got 40 hours in a week.

Since I lived by myself my bills were pretty low, but by the time I payed my car payment and bought food each week, I was down to pennies. As a matter of fact, if it hadn’t been for the generosity of family and friends, I have no idea how I would have made it.

The amazing thing to me is that it was then, during my broke years, when God directed me to begin helping people who were homeless. Maybe God wanted me to understand that even when we think we have it bad, there is always someone much worse off than us.

On Fridays, when I cashed my paycheck, I would pay my bills and put back what I thought I needed for the week. Then I would go to Dollar General and buy things like socks, underwear, Toboggans, deodorant, and whatever else I thought might help the men on the streets.

Then, on Saturday, I would go visiting and would pass out gospel tracts and those items. It wasn’t much but it was a start. Those little gifts were a blessing to the men and women and they helped to break the ice especially when I met a new person.

You don’t have to have much, to accomplish much

Fast-forward five years to 2001. That’s when we started the Garden City Rescue Mission in Augusta, GA. My wife April and I had been married less than three years and I had been out of college less than two years.

We lived in a little two-bedroom rented house out in the country. I had left my job and we were right in the middle of raising our support to be full time missionaries to the homeless. At this point, we had less income than when I was working my minimum wage job!

But it was then that God used us to start the new mission. I can remember telling God that he was crazy! Why would God ask me to build a home for dozens of homeless men when I could barely pay for the rent for my little family?

The reason was simple. It was never about what I had or didn’t have. It wasn’t about what I could provide. God was going to do something great. He just needed a willing vessel.

While money can solve problems, it rarely fixes things

It didn’t take me long to learn that money was only one piece of the pie. Yes, it takes money to operate. Yes, you have to pay the bills. Trust me, I fully understand that! But I also know that money is rarely the final answer.

I have thrown money at problems only to watch the problem continue. I have paid motel bills and light bills only to find that the following week they were due again.

In other words, giving money to help people solve problems is usually a temporary thing. If the root issues are not addressed, the same need will come right back again and again.

So remember, while having enough resources is great, it is usually not the real answer to the real problem for most people you will deal with.

The best gifts are not monetary anyway

Have you ever bought your child that over-priced toy that they just had to have, only to find that they quit playing with it after a few days? Yeah, me too. I think that every year, the week after Christmas, all of us parents are reminded once again that it’s not about home much money we are able to spend.

This is one of the greatest lessons that we can all learn and it filters down through every aspect of our lives.

Our children and our families really want peace in the home and time together around the holidays. They may not know that’s what they want when they are little, but it’s what they really want. They want mommy and daddy to love each other. They want to have fun and be together.

And all of that can happen on a limited budget. It’s not about how much money we have, it’s about how much love we have.

Just like you don’t have to break the bank and go into debt for Christmas, you don’t have to do that to help people either. The best way to help the homeless is to love them and be their friend. That is something you can’t put a price tag on.

No fund-raiser will ever fix a broken heart or heal someone of depression, but love will. No amount of resources will cause someone to do right and be responsible, but a real relationship with Jesus will.

In Conclusion

So the next time you start to bang your head against the wall because you don’t have what you need, just remember, you DO have what you need.

In January, our family will fly to the Philippines. We will live there for five months and help a church start a new ministry to the little homeless children who live on the streets.

Many times I have second guessed this. The Devil will say things like “how are you going to help those kids when you don’t have enough money?” Or, “do you really think you will make a difference? What they need is real help.”

But each time he comes around with his discouragement, I remind myself that what those precious little boys and girls need the most is just someone to hold them and hug them and squeeze them real tight. The just need to be loved and told about Jesus.

In other words, they need us. They need you.

So let’s get busy with whatever the Lord has given us right now. I can assure you that whatever you have, no matter how limited you may think it is, will make a big difference.

P.S. If you want to help these kids in the Philippines too but are unable to go give the hugs yourself, why not consider a gift to help us get there? Learn how here. Thanks!

7 Signs That A Person is Trying by Travis Sharpe

All of us, at one point or the other, have wondered if that person we were helping was also helping themselves. Maybe you have asked yourself “are they even trying’?

 

big effort

I know that I have asked myself this question time after time. Sometimes they are, while at other times that may not be the case. I believe there are several signs that might reveal wither or not someone is “putting their best foot forward”.

I am not saying that this is an all inclusive or all exclusive list. Not at all. What I am saying is that I have, over many years in ministry, seen these traits in people who were really trying to follow God and receive all that he had for them.

I know that in my own life there have been times that I was serious about life and times when I was just coasting through.

If you are like me, you want to be spending your time in the best, most effective ways possible. Sometimes that means limited time with certain people at certain times. I will always go further with and for the person who is really trying to make it while I may not go as far with an unwilling participant.

Lets dive into these signs.

1. A humble spirit

One sure-fire sign of someone who is trying hard in their life is that they exhibit a humble spirit. As a matter of fact, I believe this to be a prerequisite if we are going to get very far with God.

Have you ever noticed (maybe even in your own life) how that some people can be happy go lucky and give the impression that they have the world by the tail? Have you met that person who always acts like they are invincible?

That is called pride. And pride is a mark of someone who feels in their heart that they can do life on their own, without the help of God or anyone else. My how time and trouble has a way of changing this!

2. Following advice

Have you ever had someone come to you and ask for advice only to watch them walk away and do the absolute opposite of what you told them? I have, and it’s frustrating to say the least.

Usually, when a person is concerned enough about their own affairs, they will listen to the things that the people who love them are saying. And not only listen, but actually follow through with them.

My pastor says that when someone asks for his advice but then does just the opposite, they were more than likely only seeking approval for what they were going to do anyway. I think he is right and we have all probably done that in some form or fashion before.

3. Blaming the right person

This one kinda goes along with number one. Reason being, we are never truly humble until we blame the right person for the predicament we are in. And just who might that person be? Glad you asked!

It’s you. It’s me. Nine out of ten times when we find ourselves in a pickle, we have only ourselves to blame. A true sign that someone is trying is that they begin to take responsibility for their own actions. They own it.

I know that this is virtually a foreign concept now a days but it is still true. Until we are willing to take ownership for our lives, we are not really trying to improve. We are still playing games.

4. Continued contact

This one is a biggie in the world of homeless ministry. Have you ever formed a relationship with someone and seen them begin to improve, only to have them disappear?

I thought so. That’s frustrating isn’t it? Usually people disappear because they are doing the wrong things. Maybe they fell back into whatever their vice is or they are just going in the wrong direction and they know it.

When that’s the case, it’s hard for them to be around you. It’s hard because you are a symbol of accountability for them. I have had numerous guys tell me, in no uncertain terms, that when they disappear, they are up to no good.

So when someone sticks around and is not afraid of your visits, that might be a good sign.

5. A willingness to participate.

Have you ever felt like you were bending over backwards to help someone but they weren’t really doing much at all to help themselves? That’s usually because you are and they aren’t. I will be blunt with this one. Don’t waste your time with people who play games. See to help those who are willing to get the help they so desperately need.

Now we don’t want to write anyone off. We don’t want to give up on someone. But we do want to hit the pause button until they see the need to work towards their own welfare.

6. Progress

Usually, people who are trying to get things together will be making some progress. Progress might be slow due to a million obstacles that stand in the way, but there will be progress. Look for small victories. They don’t have to be giant ones but there will be some victories.

If there is no change in a person’s life year after year and they continue to be in need, something is off. There could be underlying mental disabilities or underlying sin. Sin robs us of our lives and halts forward progress.

7.  Making sacrifices

Someone who is putting their best foot forward to improve their situation will almost always make sacrifices. Think about the single mother who works two jobs just to keep food on the table and clothes on her children’s back. She willingly sacrifices because she is determined to take care of her precious children.

If someone is unwilling to suffer a little discomfort, they have probably not yet come to a place in their life where they are willing to humble themselves and do what it takes. This is hard to receive sometimes but the fact is, until they get to that place, all of the help we offer might not really help at all.

In conclusion

Look for these signs in the people you are ministering to and when you see them, encourage them. Point them out and make a big deal about them. This might just be the catalyst your friend need to go that extra mile.

Question: Have you ever felt like you were doing more for someone than what they were willing to do for themselves? What did you do?

photo credit: Lau Casabo via photopin cc

Would You Let A Homeless Man Buy Your Lunch? I Did, Here’s Why by Travis Sharpe

Okay, Okay. Before you tar and feather me, let me explain.

 
A couple days ago a new friend (who is currently living in a motel) called and asked me to come get him and take him to get some food because he doesn’t have a vehicle.
 
I first met him last week when he called us for help. He was in need of a place to stay, food, and clothes. We helped with his lodging and food. He started a small, part time job last Monday.
 
One of the things he told me at our first meeting was how lonely he was. He doesn’t have any friends and he has burned bridges with most of his family. He has been facing serious depression and life is just not what he wants it to be right now.
 
When he called a couple days ago, he said that he wanted to buy my lunch. Of course, my first instinct was to say no. In a split second, on my end of the phone, I thought of all the reasons I should decline.
 
  • I have more money than him.
 
  • He is the one in need, not me.
 
  • He needs to spend his money on himself.
 
  • It would just be wrong.
 
But instead of saying no, I agreed. I picked him up and we had a great lunch at Captain D’s (yes that’s possible) and he paid for it.
 
Here’s why I let him.
 
1. It was important to him to repay me.

When I help someone, I always do it without expecting anything in return. I don’t stay up late at night becoming bitter at people because I did something for them but they didn’t return the favor. I believe in giving “as unto the Lord”. God himself will take care of paying me back. (See Proverbs 19:17 about that!)

But this case was different. He told me that he appreciated me taking the time to help him with some food and a night in the motel last week. Now he wanted to be a blessing to me. When I saw that this was important to him, I let him buy.

2. It gave him an avenue to contribute.

We all believe that it is better to give than to receive, right? Then how come we don’t allow people to give?

I knew that this man needed to give. He had been in a position of much receiving lately and that position can lead to feeling like a failure or a lesser person. I knew that he would gain a sense of accomplishment buy buying my meal.

And he did! You should have seen his smile and his countenance as he handed the clerk the money. He knew in his heart that, at that moment, he was the giver, not the receiver.

3. It put us on an even playing field.

 
Now the score is 1 to 1. I have helped him and he has helped me. Not that I’m keeping score or anything. But a real relationship does has give and take doesn’t it?

 
As we sat there and enjoyed our meal, we talked about all kinds of stuff. His family, my family. His past, my past. You get the idea. It seemed very real. It was not all charity. It was a guy trying to feel like he was contributing something to a new friendship. And he did.

 
How I got more than a meal out of this

 
There is another reason that this is important. You see, it is easy for someone like me (and possibly you) who is always helping people, to start to feel like I am the answer.
 
Sooner or later you get a lot of pride (in the bad way) and you start thinking that you are better than the people you are helping.
 
It’s easy to get a “God complex”. That is, to start to think that we are what people need.
 
Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, we all are the same. We all need the Lord. We all fall short of His glory. So for him to buy my meal was a reminder to me that I too have needs and that I am not above the people I serve.
 
So what about you? Have you ever received a gift from someone like this? How did it make you feel?

4 Ideas for the unexpected By Travis Sharpe

If I have learned anything about homeless ministry, it’s that opportunities come at inopportune times. No one really plans an exact time that they will be in dire need. I have never had a homeless person call me to schedule a time to talk under an overpass. Nobody has ever called at three pm to let me know they would be calling back with an emergency at 2 am!

I have however, “happened” upon thousands of people in all kinds of weird situations. (Like the time I met a man making a bouquet of flowers in a dumpster I drove by, which I later bought and gave to my wife!) So what do you do when you “happen” upon someone in need? What do you do when the phone rings unexpectedly in the night?

Here are a few suggestions.

1. Pre-think a few scenarios. Although you might not know when or what, you can still be prepared for the when and what. Take some time and write down some possible ministry scenarios or opportunities. You can even base them on events that have already happened in the past. Next, write out what you would do if those scenarios happened.

You might be surprised at how you will then be able to “think on your feet” weeks or months later when the scenario happens in real life.

2. Be prepared. There are certain things that we can always be prepared for. For example, keep care packages in your vehicle all the time in case you come across someone on the side of the road that you never thought would be there. Have some McDonald’s gift cards in your wallet in case you meet someone who needs a meal.

Know what motels are available in your area and the room price with all taxes included for when you need to put someone up for a night in an emergency situation. Plan for the unplanned!

3. Know who can do what you cannot do. If you cannot do a certain thing, it’s a good idea to know who can. That way you can give a solid referral. For example, you might be a single lady and not able to give a ride to a man who needs to get to the local shelter. You could however have a list of two or three men in your church, Sunday school class or small group, who would be glad to help.

If you were prepared like that, then all of a sudden, you become valuable to someone that otherwise you would have sent away empty.

4. Be aware of available resources. In every town there are resources for people in need. Things like soup kitchens, food pantry’s, temp services, day shelters, and all sorts of other programs can be invaluable. But these resources are of no value if the people in need don’t know about them.

Take some time to get to know your community. Write down places, days and times that churches or ministries open their doors to offer help. When you are armed with this kind of information, you can help bridge the gap between what is available and the person in need.

What other ideas do you have for being ready for the unexpected? What would you add?

Announcement! We have scheduled our next Good Samaritan Class for October 25th in Augusta, GA. In this class we teach how to interact with the homeless and give churches a plan they can follow. The course is open to anyone who wants to attend.

Click here for more details and the schedule.

5 keys to being a good friend to someone experiencing homelessness by Travis Sharpe

If people who are homeless need anything, they need a friend. They, like all of us, need someone who they know genuinely cares for them.

homeless friends

A friend can bring hope. A friend can listen. A friend can make you laugh.

Friends can fill a void that things can never fill because friends are real.

I want to give you five keys to being a good friend to someone who is homeless.

1. Don’t  judge them. Yes, they may have shortcomings. They may even have open and “easy to see” sins that you know are holding them back.

But then again, so do we all! The difference may be that your sins are simply not as visible as theirs is. In any case, a true friend will love at all times.

I’m not saying that we ignore or overlook everything. What I am saying is that they will immediately perceive a false friend. Genuineness is hard to come by these days but it certainly goes a long way in the form of a friendship.

This previous post talks more about not judging.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. While a true friend will not be judgmental, he will also not sit idle and watch his friend self destruct.

Did you know that we can talk to our friends about their struggles without being a jerk? We really can! Just treat them like we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes. You may not see an immediate change in behavior but the words of a friend seem to stick around while the words of other people fade in the noise of life.

The difference is the relationship.

3. Keep your promises. For goodness sakes, if you make a promise then you should keep it.

What may seem like a little promise to you, might be the world to them. And nothing kills trust in a relationship like broken promises.

4. Visit often. Friends like to see each other. They like it when you stop by. Friends like to just hang out together. One of the greatest things we can do for our friends who live on the streets is to visit them just for the sake of spending time with them.

When they figure out that you really care about them, they might just open up to you and begin looking to you for help and instruction.

5. Introduce them to your best friend. I believe the greatest thing that we can do for a friend is to share the good news of Jesus with them.

Don’t be afraid to share your faith. You might be surprised how much strength that others will draw from your friendship with God. You might also be surprised to know that you are possibly the only one telling them about Jesus. So don’t miss the chance!

Question: How have you been a friend to someone that was homeless? What would you add to this list?

Would you like to partner with us in our mission? Click here for more details.

 

Kat Northern Lights Man via photopin cc

6 things to do when you don’t believe someone’s story by Travis Sharpe

We have all heard about them. People who present themselves to be in desperate need but are really just trying to separate you from your money.

Scam artists. Unfortunately they do exist.

Here’s my story.

 

A long time ago, while sitting on a park bench in Augusta, GA I was approached by a man who had a big story. He explained to me that the heater hose on his 1989 Ford Topaz had busted. He really needed to get his car fixed and the hose would cost twenty bucks.

He was asking me for the money.

I am always glad to help out when I can but I didn’t have any cash on me at the time. So I offered to take him to the auto parts store where I could buy the hose with my debit card. He hesitated a moment but then said that would be great.

I was a little unsure of the situation. The way he was acting and his haste to get twenty dollars seemed strange to me. But I decided to help anyway.

We went to three different stores before we could find the right hose. I bought the hose and we headed to his car…or so I thought. When we got to the place, there was no car. Come to find out, he had been lying the whole time, the who story was fake.

I learned a lot about what to do when you have that “gut” feeling that something just doesn’t add up. That’s what I want to share with you today, What to do when you’re just not sure.

1. Slow down. One of the best things you can do when you have doubts about someone’s story is to simply slow down a little.

If you are like me, you want to solve problems as quickly as possible. But sometimes that does more harm than good.

Sometimes it is okay to tell the person they will have to wait until tomorrow for an answer. Many times someone who is out to tell a story and pull a fast one won’t wait that long. They will move on.

2. Have them fill out information. A wise thing for every church to implement is the use of a benevolence form like this one.

 

Tell them that the church has a policy for benevolent request and the form must be filled out and that the benevolence committee must make a decision. If they don’t want to go through the hassle, maybe their need in not genuine.

This will also give you the time and the platform to pry a little into their situation.

Make sure they show you their ID and write all of that information down. If they do not have an ID, tell them that you will take them to the sheriff’s office so that they can get a clearance paper.

Most sheriff’s offices will run someone for warrants based on their SS number and then write on a paper that the person has no wants or warrants. That’s what most shelter’s require if the person has no ID. Usually, if they have nothing to hide, they will do this.

3. Collaborate stories. Every police office does this. If you are approached by a couple, do your best to ask a lot of questions and look for discrepancies in the stories.

If the husband says they just came from Florida but the wife says they just came from Maine, well, you get the picture.

To be sure, lots of people have well crafted stories. Ask yourself if it seems genuine or rehearsed. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to tell.

4. Pay attention to body language. The guy who tricked me into buying a heater hose had all the signs, I just didn’t know what to look for.

He was sweating profusely. He couldn’t sit or stand still. He spoke very fast and in fact he never shut up!

He was a drug addict coming down from a high and in desperate need of another. (I know this because I met him again six months later and he confessed it to me).

If they are acting very weird, it is more than likely due to some type of substance abuse. And substance abuse will cause you to do whatever it takes to get a quick dollar.

5. Help in a way that won’t hurt you or them. Sometimes if I am unsure, I will still help. But it is not going to be help with something that I will feel bad about if the person turns out to be a fraud.

For example, I might buy a meal instead of a night in a motel. I might give them a ride somewhere instead of giving them gas money that they might abuse.

Ask yourself what you would do for them even if you knew they were not being truthful and do that.

6. Remember that you WILL be taken advantage of. If you are going to be compassionate and help people, sooner or later it will happen. It just comes with the territory. It’s part of this life.

The real test is how we deal with it. Personally, I am willing to be taken advantage of for the sake of Christ. We are commanded to love and help people. If you can’t deal with the fact that in every walk of life there are some bad apples then you need to read your Bible again!

Don’t let an occasional scam artist keep you from loving broken people. And really, their not taking advantage of you as much as they are trampling upon the very grace and mercy of God.

They will have much more to answer for than what they lied to you about!

Question: Has something like this ever happened to you? Did you get mad or did you forgive them?

Making an assessment part 3, by Travis Sharpe

This is our third blog in the series on making an assessment. Today I am going to discuss a little of the nuts and bolts of making an assessment.

The whole idea in making an assessment is to gather facts, background and context. If we really want to help someone then we need to understand some things about them. We need to make an effort to know them. Your assessment will be the starting point.

Here are some questions to ask and some things to look for.

1. How long has the person been homeless? This is an important thing to know because it can reveal many other things. For example, if someone has been homeless for 20 years, they probably have a lot more street smarts than someone who has been homeless for two weeks. If they have been homeless for that long then that is a good indicator that there are some major underlying issues in their life.

It could be a mental illness. It could be a handicap. It could be an addiction. These are things that need to be known as you set out to help someone.

If you discover that the person you are trying to help has only been homeless for a very short time period, that could indicate that with just a little help, they could be back on their feet real soon.

2. Where do they normally spend the night? This is important as well because it can say a lot about a persons ability to function around others. If they live under a bridge by themselves, that could be an indication that they don’t function well or interact well with others.

If they live in a homeless camp with all their friends, that could indicate that they function well but are trapped in a cycle of bad relationships. Or they could be banding together and digging their heels into that lifestyle because they believe they will never be any different.

3. How many jobs have they had in the last couple years? Believe it or not, many homeless people work hard every day. I know men who have worked and had decent jobs but couldn’t seem to get ahead in life.

But if a person has had a dozen jobs in the last year or two, something’s wrong. That is a classic sign of addiction. Many people are hard workers but their addiction rules their lives and drives them from difficulty to difficultly.

4. Where are they going?  Homeless people are always going somewhere! Many are transient moving from town to town. Many will ask you for gas money or for a bus ticket. Always investigate this. Ask where they are going and why they want to go there.

Most people I meet who are homeless are where they are because they came there on a promise of some sort that didn’t pan out. Now they are stuck with nothing. I personally don’t want to shuttle people from city to city unless that move has real potential to change their life. Most moves are not good ones. Before I buy a bus ticket for someone I will always verify the story on the other end first.

5. What are they doing? If they want money from you, are they doing anything themselves? Giving money to someone who spends all their time asking for money is simply not good. Do they have a plan to overcome their homelessness? I like to invest in people who are trying.

I help people who are not doing much to help themselves too, but that help looks a little different.

6. What is their mental state? Obviously, someone with a mental illness will have many more challenges that someone in the same shape without the illness. It is very important to understand these illnesses and the implications surrounding them.

Expecting someone who suffers from schizophrenia to be able to function and perform just like everyone else is simply absurd. Their mental state will have a lot to do with how you decide to move forward with them.

Sometimes God calls us to care for and fight for people. Sometimes we need to hold people accountable and if they won’t work they shouldn’t eat. But if we don’t take the time to understand what’s happening with someone we will not know how to proceed.

There are many more questions to ask during your assessment than these six. But this is a great start. Remember we are not judging people to be worthy of our time or love. They ARE worthy already. We are simply attempting to be better ministers and good stewards.

 

 

Making an assessment part 2 by Travis Sharpe

Me and Country

This is the second blog in our series about making an assessment. The assessment is the gathering of information when you first meet someone. It is not a judgment, it is an honest look at their situation.

Today I want to discuss the why of the assessment. I have people tell me sometimes that we should just take everything at face value, that we shouldn’t pry and try to find out personal details about people. They say that in doing so, you become the judge.
I disagree.
I want to lay out three reasons that I believe in going through the process of making an assessment.

1. To blindly give money or other items to someone without understanding the dynamics behind their situation is simply irresponsible.

People will often say that “whatever someone does with what I give them is between them and God.” And I agree with that statement. But I also believe that what I do with the resources I have is between me and God. If that is true, and it is, how can I give money to someone with no questions asked if I know in my heart that there is a real probability that they will hurt themselves with it?

Taking the time to make an assessment simply means that you love the person enough to help in the appropriate manner and be a wise steward of the resources God has entrusted you with.

I know what you are thinking. “That five dollars I gave that guy ain’t gonna hurt him, it’s not gonna make much of a difference.” Well, yours alone might not but what about when thirty other people do the same thing? Catch my drift?

The average panhandler is counting on people like you. They know that they can make a tax-free days wage and live irresponsibly because people will be guided by guilt instead of by common sense. We need to take the time to do a little homework and see what the person is all about.

2. You could actually hinder what God is trying to do in someone’s life.

If you are reading this, I know you have a huge heart to help people. I mean, who else reads this kinda stuff?

The ironic thing is that sometimes in our haste to help someone draw close to God, we could actually interrupt God’s plans for them. Have you ever thought about the prodigal son in the Bible. The Bible tells us something very interesting about when he was in the hog lot and about to eat the slop along with the hogs.

It says that “no man gave unto him.” (Luke 15:16) If the average compassionate person had seen this young man in that awful shape, they would have more than likely fed hi a good hot meal. I know I would. But God was doing something through hunger.

You see, an assessment of his situation shows us that poverty was not his issue, rebellion was. And hunger was the tool God used to bring about conviction. Do you see how our charity might have hindered what God was doing in his life?

3. You could further a flawed view of personal responsibility.

This is an unfortunate truth. But it is true none the less. Our society and our government in particular has done an outstanding job of rewarding people for ill behavior. Programs that are meant to help the truly poor have been abused to the extent that we now have a who generation of people who feel entitled to a free ride in life.

When we treat well people like they are sick, we run the risk of helping to convince them that they really are sick when in fact they are well.

In other words, when we give and give and give without knowing why the person is in need, we help to further their sense that the world owes them something for nothing. And that is simply not true.

I want to be very clear that not everyone who panhandles is a shyster. Not everyone who asks for money will misuse it. But to deny that many do is foolish. To give blindly is a fast way out. I suggest that we take the time to know them, love them, and help them in a responsible manner.

Note: this was taken from my Good Samaritan course. For more information about the course, click here.

Making an assessment part 1, by Travis Sharpe

 Chris Parker

 

When I meet a new person in our ministry, someone who is homeless and comes to us for help, I want to make an assessment of their situation in order to better serve them. It is important to note that an assessment is not a judgment. It should be an honest view of a given set of circumstances.

We must be able to use wisdom and discernment apart from judgment. What I mean by that is the assessment is a gathering of information so I can make informed decisions. It is not me gathering a bunch of reasons to not love the person.
 
Your initial meeting with someone is critical. They need to sense that you genuinely care about them and that you are there to help. You must be intentional about this and take steps to make sure your meeting is not all about a “hand out.”
 
So, with that in mind, I want to give you four principles that I use when making my initial assessment.
 
1. Be relational, not transactional. Because we want to help so many people, we sometimes have a tendency to treat helping someone like a transaction. It’s easy to be like Joe Friday on Dragnet and ask for “Just the facts, ma’am!” We should be there for more than “than facts”, we should be there to come alongside our new friend and help to bear their burdens.
 
Just treat them like you would want to be treated. Love them. They are a real person with real feelings and real needs.
 
2. Listen. I cannot stress this enough. How can we find out about someone if we don’t listen to them. The problem with most people who try to help the homeless is that they feel like they know everything. Like they have all the answers. While in reality, You have never been in their shoes! You don’t know what it’s like to be them.
 
The best tactic is to just shut up and listen! Nothing says you care like listening does. While you listen, focus on them. Make eye contact. Don’t fiddle with you phone. Don’t look away. Let what they are saying fall on your ears with distraction.
 
3. Take your time. There is no need to rush. This is a person, not a number! So slow down and enjoy the time of getting to know them. Admittedly, there will be some people who are difficult to understand. Some who are mentally ill and talk in circles or whose speech just doesn’t make sense.
 
But regardless, take your time and be thorough. A good way to do this is over a cup of coffee or a meal. You might be their angel that day. Your time and attention could literally change their life. It could cause them to once again believe that someone does care about them. Rushing through a process will have the opposite effect.
 
4. Don’t make promises. Sometimes I want to fix everything right away. I want to be the answer. So I have to take measures to prevent myself from going too far and making promises I can’t keep. The problem is that if I, in my haste, make promises, I might find out later that I cannot fulfill them.
 
And a broken promise is bad news. No one will take us serious when we don’t keep our word.
 
Follow these simple principles as you meet people for the first time and it will bless both them and you. Do you have something to add? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. 
Note: This was taken from my Good Samaritan course. For more information on the course click here.