Today, the rate of household food insecurity in Massachusetts is 71% higher than it was a decade ago, with no sign of improvement (2014 Status Report on Hunger in Massachusetts).
How many homeless are in Springfield, MA?
Every year there are 1,200-1,400 individuals who experience homelessness in Springfield. The Federal Government tracks the number of homeless people by taking a count on the same night in January every year. This is consistent with the increased number of low-income and homeless individuals seeking emergency food and other critical services from the Springfield Rescue Mission. In addition, Massachusetts has seen an increase of 39.7% in the number of homeless individuals (6,008, as reported in the 2015 State of Homelessness in America). In Western MA, there are 3,002 individuals who are homeless and in need of food and shelter on any given night (2015 Point-in-Time Count). The number of homeless families has been rising in Western Massachusetts, even as numbers of homeless families are decreasing nationally.
Why are people homeless?
There are many different reasons people experience homelessness including abuse, addiction, mental illness, depression, physical illness, unwillingness to follow "rules" ... the list goes on and on and we've seen it all at the Springfield Rescue Mission.
What should you know about the homeless:
Many homeless people have learned to take advantage of good intentions. Therefore, we encourage you to balance your compassion, resourcefulness and desire to help the homeless by using good judgment. Please review the following and consider how best to help those in need.
Many of the homeless will submit to any evangelism if it will help them get something they want or need. They will often “pray the prayer” or say whatever words you want to hear to earn your trust.
Honest relationships are scarce on the street. To be effective with the homeless, you have to earn credibility and build trust. This takes time and effort (if it’s possible at all). Many homeless have been through circumstances and abuse you cannot imagine, which makes trusting anyone difficult. Some are mentally ill, while others are victims of serious substance abuse. These things make any relationship difficult at best.
Some homeless people desire to be homeless.
Not all substance abusers want to stop.
When someone living a life of sin turns to Christ they typically struggle as they unlearn old habits, change old relationships, and new Christ-like ways are put in place. But, God can do miraculous things. When people first place their trust in Jesus, considerable change must follow. And change is always hard.
Don’t be surprised if you are lied to or deceived by homeless people, particularly when money is involved.
Long-term contact is difficult with transient people. Don’t be surprised if you hear of a setback.
Money complicates everything. If you want to help the homeless, invest time in building a relationship, getting to know specifics of their situation in a safe environment as a volunteer at the Mission. In any event, it’s best not to hand out cash or things that can be exchanged for cash such as grocery or hotel vouchers.
Most stories heard from the homeless are not truth. Their lives are far more complicated than they seem and require long-term solutions with hope that only Christ can give.
How you can help the homeless:
- NEVER GIVE CASH TO A HOMELESS PERSON: Too often well intended gifts are converted into drugs or alcohol. If the person is hungry, buy a meal or give a Compassion Card.
- TALK TO THE PERSON WITH RESPECT: Taking time to talk to a homeless person can give them a wonderful sense of dignity and a great opportunity to give a Compassion Card.
- RECOGNIZE HOMELESS PROBLEMS AREN’T ALL THE SAME: The homeless person you meet may be a battered woman, an addicted veteran, someone who is mentally ill, a con artist or someone lacking job skills…the list goes on. Our services are designed to meet the needs of the homeless – pass along a Compassion Card.
- SHARE GOD’S LOVE WHENEVER YOU CAN: If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would spend time with the homeless. Today, Jesus works through you. Take time to share.
- PRAY FOR THE HOMELESS: God can use your prayers as well as the brutality of life on the street to bring many of the broken to Himself.
- TAKE PRECAUTIONS FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY: Some homeless are criminals/fugitives running from the law. Stay in areas where others can see you. Do not take unnecessary chances.
- ENCOURAGE HOMELESS TO GET HELP FROM SRM: Use the Compassion Card to explain our services rather than giving cash.
- SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL MISSION: SRM offers services free of charge to any individual and receives no direct government funding. Donate securely at springfieldrescuemission.org.
REQUEST COMPASSION CARDS EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org