Homelessness.

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Circulating message in social media tells the tale of a newly appointed pastor who posed as a homeless man before meeting his congregation for the first time. Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service. Only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food. NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle … the clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment, then he recited the following:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

Then the service was dismissed until the following week. Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.

Today, let us pray that when a homeless person does come to your churches that he/she would be welcomed and accepted without frowned upon or judged.

Have a blessed week!

homeless-2homelessHomelessness, Washington DC

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OPINION

 Homelessness and health concerns often go hand in hand. An acute behavioral health issue, such as an episode of psychosis, may lead to homelessness, and homelessness itself can exacerbate chronic medical conditions or lead to debilitating substance abuse problems. At the most extreme, a person can become chronically homeless when his or her health condition becomes disabling and stable housing is too difficult to maintain without help.

People living in shelters are more than twice as likely to have a disability, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. On a given night in 2012, nearly 40 percent of the homeless population had serious mental illness or conditions related to chronic substance abuse. Thousands of people with HIV/AIDS experience homelessness on a given night. Half of veterans in shelters are disabled.

Helping the homeless is one reason why we need government collective action. You see if only we give some money to a beggar, it will have little effect on his life. There is also the fear that the money may be wasted on drink or drugs. Everyone therefore tries to ignore the problem and hope that someone else will deal with it. As a result the homeless get hardly any help. If instead every person each gave a trivial amount, a dollar or even less, then collectively we would be able to hugely help the homeless. That is to say while individual action achieves little, if we all collectively act, which can greatly help the problem. That is how taxes work.

In summary, the basic problem of homelessness is the human need for personal shelter, warmth and safety, which can be literally vital. Other basic difficulties include:
  • personal security, quiet, and privacy, especially for sleeping
  • safekeeping of bedding, clothing and possessions, which may have to be carried at all times
  • hygiene and shaving facilities
  • cleaning and drying clothes
  • obtaining, preparing and storing food in small quantities
  • keeping contacts, without a permanent location or mailing address
  • hostility and legal powers against urban vagrancy.
Homeless people face many problems beyond the lack of a safe and suitable home. They are often faced with many social disadvantages also, reduced access to private and public services and reduced access to vital necessities:
  • Reduced access to health care and dental services.
  • Limited access to education.
  • Increased risk of suffering from violence and abuse.
  • General rejection or discrimination from other people.
  • Loss of usual relationships with the mainstream
  • Not being seen as suitable for employment.
  • Reduced access to banking services
  • Reduced access to communications technology

HOMELESSNESS AND TAXES

What to do about the homeless is not an easy question to answer nor are there any simple solutions on these issues. There is always the risk of moral hazard of encouraging the very practices we wish to remove. In our view, many of us in the Reform Sasscer movement for Prince George’s County don’t know about you, but many of us would have no problem with paying a few extra cent or dollars in taxes knowing it went to shelters, kitchens and clinics that can address the long-term problem of homelessness in the United States and around the World. This can be done if we recognized this as a problem for entire humanity. In Miami Dade County for example; a one percent (1%) Homeless and Domestic Violence Tax is collected on all food and beverage sales by establishments that are licensed by the State of Florida to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, except for hotels and motels. Only businesses that make over $400,000 in gross receipts annually are obligated to collect this tax.

The Homeless and Domestic Violence Tax is collected throughout Miami-Dade County with the exception of facilities in the cities of Miami Beach, Surfside and Bal Harbour. Eighty-five percent (85%) of the tax receipts goes to the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, and fifteen percent (15%) goes to Miami-Dade County for domestic violence centers. All county’s of the world including Megacities like Mumbai, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur and Kinshasa are essentially small cities surrounded by huge slums — pockets of wealth in a sea of despair. In this life time, We can do better by helping bridge the gap of inequality and in the process help the homeless men and women of the world.

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Homeless man Billy Ray Harris and  Sarah Darling (pictured above), Sarah Darling accidentally dropped her engagement ring in Billy Ray Harris’ donation cup in February 2013. Harris returned the ring, and the story inspired donors around the world.

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Read more >>> We must deal with injustice and inequalities…

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