Churches and the homeless…

Welcome to my blog and today’s post which is part of the annual A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. For more information on the challenge and its creator visit:

A-Z 2015 C Letter

My theme this year is: An Intimate Look at the Homeless and Mental Health Epidemic in America, which is the subtitle of my next book, The Stranger In My Recliner. 

Churches and the homeless

America’s churches offer a wide variety of services to support the nation’s homeless. Just south of Philadelphia where I live the churches coordinate services. A different church each day provides dinner and a place to warm up. Congregants provide a hot meal, blankets, clothing and other supplies. Once they have been given a hot meal and some supplies, the homeless are sent back out onto the streets.


What confuses me is how the homeless keep track of what church is doing what each night and how do they get from one church to another. Living in a neighborhood that has three churches within walking distance I understand the complaints of residents. We have found drugs in our front yard, had our cars keyed and broken into, witnessed fights and more.

Church ours

A few years-ago a church in Portland Oregon offered its’ parking lot for people that were sleeping in their cars. Neighbors worried about increased noise, trash and crime.

Churches in suburbs and cities across the country run soup kitchens.

A church in San Francisco installed a sprinkler system to keep the homeless from sleeping on their grounds. People were outraged that a church could be so cruel. It is a problem plaguing the country’s churches. How do they protect residents and still be compassionate to those in need.

In Virginia a church with acreage offered land to be used as a tent city. The surrounding community supported the idea bringing in a nurse, volunteers, meals and supplies.

Most people want to be loving, giving and caring to those in need, they just want to do it anywhere but in their own neighborhood.

Church family photo

Wouldn’t it make more sense for each church to donate a year’s rent and a social worker to a homeless person or family? If the churches can manage to coordinate a dinner chain, jump through permit hoops to open their parking lots to campers and build a tent city I am positive they would have no trouble working together to support homes for the homeless.

What services do the churches in your area provide for the homeless?

Happy A-Z’ing,


For this years A-Z I am a minion for the lovely co-host : Lisa Buie-Collard

Meet the other minions:

A-Z 2015 Minion Badge

Rhonda Albom –   Bob R. Milne –   Tamera Narayan  –   Stephanie Faris –   Heather McCubbin –   Randi Lee





30 Responses to “Churches and the homeless…”

  • Most of the churches here provide food, clothes, bus tickets, lodging in hotels during the cold months, rides to doctors, assistance with connections. I also read about the church and the sprinkler. Some churches open their doors for sleeping and showering as well.

  • I don’t think your suggestion for social worker and housing for one year should be the church. IMO part of a church being a church is for them to collectively try to help in the way they see fit. They make mistakes and then learn and grow. It’s amazing the different creative solutions that each church comes up with

    Our church has a mission committee which looks to the needs of our community. They have set up a food pantry and donations throughout our community. The more we do, the more the need expands, and the more we do. It’s beautiful.

  • Fantastic idea, Doreen. As always, I start to relate this to India. Presently, all good work by the Church is being seen as a means of conversion!

  • Such a good, thought-provoking post. I do believe churches have a responsibility to help anyone in need. Of course, that’s way easier said than done because there are so many people in need.

  • You bring up some really great points. But just think if all the very wealthy people in the world all sponsored one homeless person. What a difference it would make.

  • So true. W e must advocate for the right of road. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good.

  • You raise a great point Doreen. What makes most sense to do is often the very last thing they think of doing. We have a homeless pop in too as most towns. I think the church and Salvo are their only hope. It’s so desperately sad indeed.

  • Our local church has the food bank for their part in supplying those is need. I come from a small town where there are not a lot of homeless, but they are a smaller income group. Thank you for your cause.

  • My Mom’s church (Florida) has run a food pantry for the past seven years. On average they serve over 200 families a month!! Regarding your suggestion about raising money to support a shelter, I think that’s a good idea, but I also see the value in participant services – where church members who may not have extra money to donate to a worthy cause do have time to donate, to participate in activities such as a food pantry.

  • There is a church in downtown San Jose that serves our homeless really well. For some reason our community pulls together for them. But we have a problem by the river with a terrible encampment that police have had to roust people from. It is a problem, homelessness, compounded by the fact that many of our homelessare mentally ill.

    • The mentally ill aspect will continue to be a problem until we stop allowing the rights of one (who is incapable of making good decisions) come before the rights of many (communities.)om what I understand of that encampment it is a ‘nice’ area and the residents and commuters complained all the way to the top and kept complaining until the police were forced to remove them. I wrote about that camp in the book…

  • It is absolutely true that people want services and places for those who live on the fringes, but not in my backyard. In our community we have Interfaith Hospitality. Much like what you describe, but I know one of the churches has a couple rooms for families to stay overnight. We’re in Minnesota. You would die out in the elements in the winter!

    Play off the Page

  • That’s a different perspective, but I guess donating the money wouldn’t have the same impact. Church members wouldn’t be able to be a visible witness and the church wouldn’t have the opportunity to spread the Word. Being IN service is important as is the money.
    I enjoyed your post and I appreciate your theme.
    ~Visiting from AtoZ

  • Anne:

    You hit on some serious questions with appropriate gravity and attention to detail. As a (somewhat on-again off-again) Roman Catholic, it sometimes disturbs me the extent to which the Church / me as a person “of means” can view “the poor” almost as an asset, part of what we use to justify ourselves, because – look – I’m doing “good things” for people in need. Such that we benefit from having people beneath us, in some sense.
    You really drilled down into this question I’ve been turning over in my mind in terms of whether churches should be open for homeless people all the time and how many times homeless shelters (whether in a church or other building) are not the kinds of places people want to live – and why.
    You are definitely onto something with this idea of giving people their own space and dignity and not simply giving them a corner to sleep in – or not.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Doreen, your posts are so thought provoking. It seems as if there’s a double-edged sword — one side being the people who want to help and the other being those of the homeless who are their own worst enemy. Quite a dilemma. How brave it was for Utah to break tradition and use their ‘Apartments Not Jails’ initiative to prove it’s a far more cost effective way to provide care. Hopefully it will catch on. 🙂

  • Hi Doreen,
    Thanks for coming to visit me at Beyond the Flow during the A-Z Challenge. I suspect this is going to be more work than I thought but fun work from my perspective, although my husband isn’t so keen. These blogging projects can be a little all-consuming.
    Homelessness is something I haven’t encountered personally although I was on the Status of Women Committee at our local council for a few years and one of the other women worked for what would be the local homeless agency.
    From my understanding, there is as much diversity among the homeless as the general community. Locally, the message has been that we are all just a few pay checks away from homelessness ourselves and all it takes is a bit of bad luck and poor social supports and you’re living on the streets or in your car. There are also your temporary, situational homeless and the long term, mental health, drug, alcohol quite a range where one fix doesn’t suit all. I hear about women escaping domestic violence and living in cars with their kids. I would expect anybody with an ounce of moral fibre to help but at the same time, I have been wary of their partners myself and relieved when others stepped in.
    I live in Australia which I have described as a pagan country but was corrected and told it I am actually is post-Christian. Either way, the Churches are not our main sources of social support and I guess we have what’s officially known as the welfare state. Our Church support local agencies quite enthusiastically and the word will go out for a particular project. This enables people who have the training and resources to provide tailored help.
    That said, Church members need to love people from all nations and to search for the good in others and looking past appearances and treasuring what is good. I love the story of the Good Samaritan and the Golden Rule. I also think that some people are more comfortable with certain groups than others too and have a gift. After what I’ve been through, I have a naturally affinity with people living with disabilities and chronic illness where others feel more comfortable dealing with addicts or domestic violence or other struggles. But a well-oiled Church, can network in effect and link people up.
    Anyway, just a few thoughts. Wishing you a Happy & Blessed Easter,

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