DALLAS — (ABP) — A personal spiritual revival is the key for homeless individuals to overcome their multitude of issues and get off the street, according to leaders of Christian ministries.
Ministries providing food, clothing and job training are effectively meeting immediate needs. But those efforts need to be combined with a spiritual effort to transform lives and move people toward attaining their own housing, said Charles Little, volunteer leader and deacon at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Dallas.
Rick Brenny, executive director of Jefferson Street Baptist Center in Louisville, Ky., has seen spiritual efforts produce results in the homeless ministry he leads.
Brenny said less than 30 percent of people served at homeless ministries typically find permanent housing. But 38 percent of his clients are off the streets, and an additional 40 percent are making progress toward that goal, he said.
Personal revival leads to a change of lifestyle and morality, stated Little, who teaches a Bible study twice a week prior to serving lunch to homeless people in Dallas. God can help people overcome the vices that keep them homeless, he said.
“We truly believe once they give their lives to Christ, God will begin to work in their heart,” Little said. “He will provide the means.”
There is a lot of work to do.
Laws nationwide are pushing the homeless off street corners and preventing them from sleeping in public but not providing enough shelters to care for them, said Jimmy Dorrell, director of Mission Waco (Texas). And Americans are not inclined to try to help the homeless because they never see the situation improve, Dorrell added.
Then there are the personal issues for the homeless.
According to statistics from the National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness, two thirds of the homeless population report either substance abuse or mental-health problems. As much as half have both concerns.
Specifically, 38 percent of the homeless population indicate alcohol issues, 26 percent say they have drug problems, and 39 percent have some form of mental-health problem, the group said.
These issues often prevent the homeless from holding steady jobs, Dorrell said. They either get high or drunk and miss work, or they don't take their medication and are unable to function.
Despite their issues, only one in 100 homeless people enter a rehabilitation program, said R. B. Cooper, minister of church and community outreach at First Baptist Church in San Antonio. If they get in a program, only one in 30 get clean, Dorrell noted.
There are few facilities to treat the mentally ill who are homeless, Cooper said. Nongovernmental programs typically do not have the funds or trained personnel to provide needed medication and treatment, Cooper explained. State institutions have limitations for how long an individual can stay.
With the deck stacked against the homeless, God is their hope to straighten out their lives and end their addictions, said Little, the Dallas deacon.
Baptists largely use relationships to share the gospel with the homeless.
Dorrell started Church Under the Bridge, an outdoor congregation, to minister to the needy in Waco. Volunteers dress casually and mingle with the homeless during the services, held beneath a downtown interchange on Interstate 35. The friendships that develop help the homeless understand they are still important to others.
“In most cases they have conviction of sin,” Dorrell reported. “What they don't have is self-valuation. They don't see they are worth saving.”
Cornerstone Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in San Antonio couple Bible studies with meals. A Bible lesson is given before a meal at both sites.
A consistent Christian presence speaks volumes to the homeless, said Gerald Davis, a consultant in the Baptist General Convention of Texas Missions Equipping Center.
Homeless ministries show needy individuals that churches care about them and want to help, Davis added. The efforts let the homeless know the message of hope and redemption is for them as well.
“The most effective thing is being there for them,” Davis said. “Let them know you are serious and sincere about wanting a relationship with them. Let them know you are serious and sincere about helping them.”