I’m CEO Bruce Spangler of Volunteer Ministry Center (VMC), a CSPC local missions partner. I’m sometimes asked how people should respond when they encounter those experiencing homelessness in our community; the people our ministry aims to serve and love. First, I don’t work with homeless people, but with individuals experiencing homelessness. We’re all more than the sum of one experience in our lives. Recalling that makes me very conscious of the humanity of the other- that’s key. Second, when I see someone panhandling, I have to remember he’s doing what he thinks he has to do- that doesn’t mean I have to participate in it. He’s not giving me a hard time, he’s simply having a hard time- and so I let him own it in that regard. Third, you’re not helping someone who’s experiencing homelessness until housing’s part of the equation. So support organizations that are working on permanent solutions. Finally, I never give money to someone I don’t know. For me, money presupposes some type of relationship. I simply respond to begging by saying, ‘I work at the VMC, and here’s how we might be able to help you.’ So I don’t give to panhandlers. I think there’s a better way. I’m not rude, I just don’t do it.
Moving forward, please pray that we at VMC will be mindful of the brokenness every one of us carries around. That awareness helps us connect with those who are truly, truly struggling. And in praying for those who are struggling, I’m actually praying for myself to be most available to love them as I should.