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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Should Churches Provide Shelter For The Homeless?

According to Google Trends, this topic of homelessness is one of the most searched for topics in the United States and has been consistently for the past 5 years.

Supposedly according to that research, there are over 6000 homeless people living in San Francisco. How do they live? How do they support themselves? And should churches offer shelter for these ones?

In the past and present, homelessness usually paints a vivid picture of an individual living in an old appliance box on the edge of a street or under a bridge. Some cities like Roanoke, Virginia has in the past housed many homeless persons underground in the city's sewer system. Access to these areas can be had by crawling into a street drain or pulling up a manhole cover.

One famous homeless blogger states that he makes between $15-$30 and hour by panhandling or asking for donations from passersby. He claims that this money is not consistent, however, sometimes only bringing in $60 for a whole day. That's about the same amount of money servers make for working long shifts at say...The Olive Garden.

The questions about whether or not churches should provide shelter to homeless ones can be answered by researching the history and purpose of churches. Originally, the first churches or houses of worship were built as a place where individuals could go to feel close to God and give him proper worship. They could pray there or learn about his will.

In ancient Israel, when the Israelites were told that they would have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years due to their lack of faith, God gave them the architectural plans for building a tabernacle so that they could have a place to worship God while in the wilderness. The plans for this tabernacle allowed the people to take it apart and put it back together as they moved from place to place.

When King Solomon began to rule over the people, he inherited the designs and materials left by his father King David to build a temple for the people to come and worship God. There was never any mention about this also being a place for the homeless to be able to come and live. In other ancient temples and shrines, it was never a common practice to house the homeless.

However, in the year 64 CE, Rome was set fire by some means, either by accident or due to some treacherous deed of Nero. History contradicts itself as to the actual cause. But when this disastrous fire had left many people homeless, Nero did open up the Campus Martius or "Field of Mars" among other facilities to help house these ones. This was a plain dedicated to festivals of the pagan gods.

So, apparently, there are exceptions, but it is not the rule. It is not normally a practice to house homeless people in churches, temples or sanctuaries. In modern times, it is noteworthy that the role of churches has seemed to change from ancient days. In many churches today, live entertainment, restaurants, barber shops and many other unusual venues are in place.

Even if there are no such attractions present, it is not uncommon for churchgoers to present their main reason for attending church to be for social reasons rather than for learning about God and the bible and for the opportunity to worship. In fact, in recent years, church membership has waned so much that there is certainly room for the homeless to have a place to stay.

Obviously, the best solution for the homeless would be for programs to be in place that encourage or help them to find suitable work and for them to be able to pay for their own affordable housing. Of course, the bible does promise a time when "they will build houses and live in them, and they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage." -Isaiah 65:21

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