How Do We Treat The Homeless?

I recently heard an interesting story on a non-Catholic Christian radio program. A few college age guys decided to do an experiment by going around the country living like homeless people do, w/ only the money they could aquire as homeless people. In their journey they visited many ecclesial communities and experienced mixed messages. Some received them w/ compassion and charity, while others were not quite so accepting. They mostly experienced the negative while on the street panhandling.

At one point they had visited a fairly wealthy downtown neighborhood and in 4-5 hrs had only received $ .17 for their meal that evening. They went to sleep under a bridge cold and hungry. They wrote a book about their experiences and how it reflected the attitudes of ecclesial communities across the nation, both positive and negative.

I thought it was an interesting concept, but I wonder if they ever visited a Catholic parish?

I dont see why not Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination?

Yeah, but if they were the type of Protestants who don’t believe Catholics are Christians then tough luck for them, haha.

I know that in North East PA every soup kitchen is run by the Catholic Church so I doubt that they didn’t visit any Catholic funded and / or ran places. I know if I were writing a book like that I probably would break things out denominationally but rather would speak of specific instances and specific places. No need to decry all Baptists because one group of them is a jerk, nor need to praise all Catholics because one of them is good.

Actually, we don’t define the Catholic Church as a ‘denomination’. The term ‘denomination’ rose out of a need to distinguish between different Protestant groups. The Catholic Church is the only group we refer to as a ‘church’. The Catholiic Church recognizes most Protestant groups as ‘ecclesial communities’, the reason being that although they are not in full communion, they (at least the ones who accept the majority of defined dogma) are, in fact, part of the Catholic Church by virtue of their history (having been broken away from the Catholic Church) and all the teachings they believe based on Catholic Tradition (i.e. the Bible).

Amen. Although, I think the bigger issue that they were exploring was how we as 21st century American Christians in general treat the homeless. Do we (the majority) only offer lip service, or do we in fact minister to the homeless as church groups (vs. sluffing off our responsibility onto community resources)?

Now, keep in mind, they were not making any accusations/implications one way or another. They were trying to present their study from an objective standpoint (although, we know some subjectivity is required).

Yeah, but it does make a difference if they included Catholic churches in their experiment since we have different views on worship. Most Protestants think faith alone is sufficient, so their worship is more service-riented with an emphasis on recruitment. I found out that certain Protestant charity groups would go to Mexico and offer help, only if the people converted. The people weren’t too pleased, so a Catholic priest help start a non-denominational service group sort of like Habitat for Humanity there.

I have to say I think in general, the attitude of Western society towards the poor and homeless is often quite cynical and harsh. It is made worse by private property laws which while designed to protect legitimate rights, are often skewed towards the rich and against the poor and needy who may be desperate or in dire shortage of affordable accomodation (especially in rental accomodation). The speculative housing bubble until very recently made the problem worse by increasing the rents people had to pay and also mortgage payments, while in the downturn people have lost their homes due to foreclosure on loans they cannot pay due to unemployment or other reasons.

Homelessness is a dire social problem like poverty that has too often received lip service from politicians and too little attention from those who should care. The high rates of homelessness in Western countries is in my view a pretty sorry indictment on the lack of compassion people often have for the worse off. Some things change quite little across the centuries.

There are two divergent definitions for the term denomination. There is the theological definition in which one group of believers is named away from another group. In this regard the Catholic Church is not a denomination because it has not been named away from any other group. Then there is the anthropomorphic definition in which any group of religious sharing common beliefs and worshiping together is a denomination. In this regard the Catholic Church is a denomination – the largest Christian denomination in the United States. Mind that the anthropomorphic form of the word includes all religions and not just Christianity.

BTW: I got that information from a priest.

Thank you for the ‘anthropomorphic’ definition, but that still doesn’t change the fact that as Catholics we don’t NORMALLY refer to the Catholic Church as a ‘denomination’ as most people who use the term are probably not thinking of it in the ‘anthropomorphic’ sense.

BTW (and I’m not necessarily assuming anything about the priest who told you that), but just because a priest told you that does not necessarily make it okay. There are a lot of liberal priests who teach things that are on the fringe of what the Church approves/ disapproves. For instance, one priest once taught that the bread and wine were only symbolic. He was reprimanded and recanted.

Having said all that, I’m sure the info you received from the priest is accurate. But, just as in the case of ‘worshiping’ Mary, although we really do in a semantical sense ‘hyperdulia’ her, it would be scandalous to go around telling Protestants that we ‘worship’ Mary, because they only understand the term from a ‘Latria’ standpoint. It would greatly confuse the issue, and they are already confused enough about what the Church actually teaches.

I think Drawmack’s comment would be appropriate here…“No need to decry all Baptists because one group of them is a jerk, nor need to praise all Catholics because one of them is good”.

However, I would challenge your statement above that “Most Protestants think faith alone is sufficient,…” One question that comes to my mind is ‘sufficient’ for what? I know that is a major debate between Catholic and Protestant apologists, but I believe it to be unfounded. In all my years as a Protestant I never ran across any Protestant who really believed that ‘faith alone’ without God’s grace is sufficient for anyone’s salvation. I believe the term ‘faith alone’ arose out of an extreme and chaotic time in Church history. Perhaps Martin Luther himself coined the phrase as an extreme knee-jerk reaction to his perception of Church ‘corruption’, but I doubt that even he really believed it.

Now, if we’re talking ‘Sola Scriptura’ I would agree that there is a valid foundation for debate. However, having said all that, I still fail to see what that really has to do w/ whether or not they included Catholic parishes in their experiments. After all, we are talking about an ecumenical issue…the problem of homelessness.

Also, I wouldn’t have used the term ‘non-denominational’, but rather ‘ecumenical’ would probably be more descriptive of what the Catholic priest started, since one might confuse ‘non-denominational’ w/ the actual Protestant denomination known as “Non-Denominational” (btw, isn’t that an ironic contradiction? Starting another split in a noble attempt to unify?)

I pointed it out because the post in question was using the term in the anthropomorphic sense.

BTW (and I’m not necessarily assuming anything about the priest who told you that), but just because a priest told you that does not necessarily make it okay. There are a lot of liberal priests who teach things that are on the fringe of what the Church approves/ disapproves. For instance, one priest once taught that the bread and wine were only symbolic. He was reprimanded and recanted.

I think that the general secretary from the USCCB office on ecumenical affairs knows what he’s talking about in this case.

Having said all that, I’m sure the info you received from the priest is accurate. But, just as in the case of ‘worshiping’ Mary, although we really do in a semantical sense ‘hyperdulia’ her, it would be scandalous to go around telling Protestants that we ‘worship’ Mary, because they only understand the term from a ‘Latria’ standpoint. It would greatly confuse the issue, and they are already confused enough about what the Church actually teaches.

It is important for Catholics to know and understand that because, speaking as a Protestant, I am very quick to point out that a Catholic is wrong, because of what you’ve stated above, when they tell me that they do not worship Mary. Being fair, I should also say that I’m the first to explain to fellow Protestants exactly what is meant by that. I believe that good education is at the root of good ecumenics.

Martin Luther, in his Large Catechism, taught that there were – indeed – sacraments. He went to far as to say that without the Sacraments there was no Christian. He different from Catholic teaching on the number of sacraments not their existence or their nature.

Back to the topic of the homeless :slight_smile:

This is a cause very dear to my heart. Dh and I with our children spent two years traveling the country in an RV working with the homeless. I will stop short of saying we lived as the homeless, because we did have a home, with beds, toys, water, stove, bathroom, tv etc… But basically we were transient. While we were generally able to work for enough $$ to move on, I will not forget the many, many kind and loving people who helped us out.

Honestly, my die hard Baptist hubby had to admit, if you really need help the Catholic church is the place to go. We worked and ate at soup kitchens, met with and visited homeless shelters, and lived and loved with homeless folks. And most of them would agree.

Many, but not all protestant churches want to help you…as long as you are willing to “tow their line”, attend their church services, obey their rules etc… Now, not all. Some of the protestant and non-church affiliated services were great. But generally they had a lot of rules and hoops to jump through.

Also we found that some nationwide services, such as the Salvation Army varied from place to place, with some being wonderful, and some not so much.

The one time we really needed some help, one of our children had gotten ill and needed medicine, we went to a Catholic church. Not a charity like St. Vincent, but down to the local parish. We explained we had money for food and such, but not the $85 for medicine. The secretary didn’t even bat an eye. We offered to have her go pick up the medicine (not wanting her to think we were lying) but she just called the pharmacy, found out how much it would cost, and gave us the cash. Then gave us a tour of the lovely church.

On the other hand, in one instance St. Vincent told us they do not help the homeless. They had no programs at all we could use if we were homeless. I was shocked.

And don’t even get me started on homeless shelters. I would rather sleep under a bridge than stay a single night in any homeless shelter I have ever seen or heard of. Horrible places that treat people like scum, or prisoners.

Honestly, the most love and support came from random folks. Seriously. We met people who told us things like “God told me to come talk to you”, and one lady who gave us enough money to live on for a while, just because she said “God was calling her to us”. So I think that it is really us, everyday people who can be of the best help to people. By just not ignoring what is right in front of our face, or judging the guy asking for a handout.

From Sunday’s NY Times:

Attacks on Homeless Bring Push on Hate Crime Laws** **

WASHINGTON — With economic troubles pushing more people onto the streets in the last few years, law enforcement officials and researchers are seeing a surge in unprovoked attacks against the homeless, and a number of states are considering legislation to treat such assaults as hate crimes.

Sometimes, researchers say, one homeless person attacks another in turf battles or other disputes. But more often, they say, the assailants are outsiders: men or in most cases teenage boys who punch, kick, shoot or set afire people living on the streets, frequently killing them, simply for the sport of it, their victims all but invisible to society.
“A lot of what we see are thrill offenders,” said Brian Levin, a criminologist who runs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

There was another article I saw recently but can’t find now about cops in many cities cracking down on the homeless sleeping in public places – parks, alleys, &c. As Voltaire put it, the law in its majesty forbids the rich as well as the poor from sleeping under bridges.

Maybe it was this article?

nytimes.com/2009/08/09/opinion/09ehrenreich.html

I actually started a thread about it here.

One thing to note is that is how the old proverb: Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach the man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. If they are only using monetary donations as their metric of charity, the validity of this experiment will be low. Some people will opt instead to give advice, to give prayers, to gave a smile and encouragement. None of these are monetary. Some may choose to give clothing and food, the value of these are subjective more then objective once they are processed items. This is just to give perspectives. Many investigative reporting, especially by armatures, leave much to be desired. However, I do cheer them for their search and bravery.

I agree with much of what is posted here. For example, I never give money to homeless people but I will give them food, clothes, etc. If I give them money I do not know what they will spend it on. That being said, I would still like to read the book.

I also agree with what was mentioned. Most of these people have some sort of addiction and use the money to buy drugs or alcohol. I’ve been burned before. In fact a couple months ago I had to refuse a guy because in the past the same guy had told me the EXACT same story.

I have no problem donating to programs that support and feed our poor. But I don’t think measuring how much money one can panhandle is a measure of how compassionate our society is towards the poor. We actually have ad campaigns in our city urging citizens not to give money to panhandlers but to donate to the numerous charities that offer food and clothing to these people.

WE treat homeless persons the way we would want to be treated. With dignity, love and respect. We can feed them if they are hungry, dress them if they are naked, and shelter them if they are homeless.We can offer assistance by giving them homeless shelters that can help them, and pray for their use of what is given them in their hour of need. Other than that- what is the next question?:smiley:

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