There are so many stories of Jesus going out of his way to talk to people others might have ignored, including beggars, prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors. In our busy lives it is so easy to walk past people begging on the street – but what message does this send to our families?
There are so many reasons that people become homeless – and in most cases it is a complex combination of causes, some the fault of individuals, but many rooted in society’s wider problems. Our place is not to judge; as Dorothy Day said, “The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.” As Christians we try to follow Jesus’ example, recognising the dignity of all we meet – all are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
The aim of the below activities is to create safe spaces for encounter between our families and those who are ‘on the street’. This allows our families to understand that these are just people like themselves, fellow children of God. This can then lead to action, both in terms of charity and justice: volunteering, donating and campaigning.
In London, with young people aged 11+:
Consider taking an ‘unseen tour’, a London walking tour led by homeless, formerly homeless, and vulnerably housed tour guides. For more information please see http://sockmobevents.org.uk/
Buying ‘The Big Issue’ or similar street papers:
Street papers such as ‘The Big Issue’ offer people the opportunity to earn money – providing the dignity of work. They also offer a great opportunity to have conversations with vendors, stopping and having a chat when buying a magazine.
Offering fruit, tea, coffee or a bottle of water:
Carrying a bag of fruit or other snacks with you allows you to not ignore someone who is begging; offering them a satsuma might start a conversation and at the very least encourages the recognition of that person. Remember – they might not want what you offer – and that’s ok!
If you have more time:
Before a day out in the city, put together packs as a family that can be offered to anyone you see begging. These could be as simple as a plastic bag containing items such as a bottle of water, snack bars and information about local homeless projects. You could also consider including pictures or cards made by the family.
When you’ve done one or more of the above, consider using the internet to find out more about the causes and consequences of homelessness. You will also find ways that you can help – volunteering, giving money, campaigning and donating to foodbanks.