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Sidewalk Sadness

By June 27, 2014January 26th, 20233 Comments
Miracle Hill Shelter Information Card

Miracle Hill Shelter Information Card

The scene is becoming all too familiar in our community.  You’re driving your car. You stop at a major intersection.  Up ahead you notice a man standing on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign that reads “Homeless, Hungry, Need Help”.  The man’s face looks sad and weary, and you start to get a little uncomfortable as you inch closer and closer to where he’s standing, hoping the light will change so you can simply move on and put the image out of your mind.

Helping or Hurting?

In the past week, I encountered two different situations just like the one described above.  One situation involved a man and a woman near I-385 and Woodruff Rd.  The woman was sitting on the sidewalk with an array of disheveled items, everything from clothing to toys to bedding.  The man standing next to her held a cardboard sign asking for help.  The second encounter took place at I-385 and Haywood Rd. A weather-beaten but seemingly well-fed man who looked to be in his late 40’s was holding a sign that said he was homeless.

When faced with these situations, questions abound.  Is he really homeless?  Does he really need help?  Where is he from and what led him to stand on the side of the road in our town? Should I help him or am I just enabling a man who needs much more than a handout?  In reality, it’s good to wrestle with such questions because as followers of Christ, we do need to think about what we’re doing, what we should be doing and why we’re doing it.

Offer an Alternative

Thankfully, I knew how to respond.  In each case, I quickly rolled my window down, spoke to the man holding the sign and then gave him a small card listing addresses and contact information for Miracle Hill’s shelters, places where he can get help if he chooses to do so.  I did not give money because that probably would  only have encouraged him to continue standing on the side of the road rather than addressing the underlying issues that are keeping him on the street.  Whether it’s broken relationships, financial struggles, addiction, mental illness, abuse or any combination of socio-economic, spiritual and physical problems, there are reasons behind the cardboard signs.

I am grateful that Miracle Hill has nine different shelters across the Upstate, places where men, women and children in need can find not only help for the moment but hope for the future. If you would like to learn more about how to help the homeless, Miracle Hill has a brief but informative video that teaches people what and what not to do.   I encourage you to take a few minutes to educate yourself and find out how to respond in a way that helps instead of hurts.

Click here to watch the video:  How to Help the Homeless


  • terri says:

    i dont agree with the whole idea of giving homless people imformation cards im sure they already know where to go for help, what we need to realize is that shelters and food banks can only do so much for people in need, thats where we come in as back up remember what GOD said in his word if you love me feed my sheep this statemdnt has alot of meaning dont think about it just do it give if they are lying thats between them and GOD and i say if you have to think about giving before you give just keep going because GOD loves a cheerfull giver

    • Sandy says:

      Thank you for your comment, Terri. I understand your point about offering more tangible assistance to people, and there are times when that is very appropriate. There have been many times I have done exactly that. Yes, I have even given money at times. However, I do think we need to keep in mind the need for long-term solutions, not just a temporary handout. For example, it might be beneficial to actually engage with the homeless person and even take them for a meal and listen to their story and find out their needs, both physical and spiritual. Or we can keep items in our cars to give away (along with the information cards) that might be of benefit to someone on the street (toiletries, snacks, etc.). This kind of response takes more effort, more emotional investment, more commitment.

      The point of my post was simply to encourage people to think about what might be most helpful for the person. Ultimately, God does know the intentions and purposes of our hearts. I pray God will give us all wisdom and discernment to do what He calls us to do in each situation.

  • Michelle says:

    I completely agree with your response to the homeless person. I work at a church where I see lots of folks ask for money. If I give some to one, then we always have a run of more people asking for money. If we send folks to shelters or LOVE INC most will get angry because they want money. But some truly appreciate the assistance. Since LOVE INC. Came to our town, charity fraud is way down and our assistance dollars are meeting genuine need instead of fraudulent requests. I support giving information, along with a bag of non perishables such as peanutbutter and crackers, water, chap stick, fresh fruit, clean new socks, a nail file, clippers, Kleenex and granola bars. These items will meet need and not help purchase drugs or alcohol.

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