Professional Panhandlers or Truly Homeless?
Oregon State Representative Carl Wilson points out that vagrancy is growing everywhere on the West Coast, from the streets of Los Angeles to the sidewalks of Seattle. Shockingly, “professional vagrants” are often on the streets by choice, especially here in Grants Pass. Why not? They have no intention of changing their lifestyle because they can make around $60 to $85 daily panhandling. Those free handouts they receive on street corners and freeway off-ramps provide them the money to buy drugs, booze and cigarettes. Many of them deliberately dress down and look dirty to fool us. Free food is always available in Grants Pass.
However, the truly homeless do not choose to become penniless. Mission residents want and deserve your help and mine. Many of our homeless residents have lost their jobs or suffered an illness that their insurance won’t cover. Some are battered or abandoned wives and children. When they seek help at the mission, residents are required to quit drugs, cigarettes or liquor and to work every day in our kitchen, do housekeeping, work at the Second Chance Thrift Store, Recycling Center and help clean the streets of Grants Pass. While they stay at the Gospel Rescue Mission they begin to change their lives for the better. They may return to school for vocational training, get jobs and work to improve their lives. If they are caught panhandling in town they are asked to leave! The mission does not support panhandlers.
Resources for Community Care
What can we do about the panhandlers in our community? Police Chief Landis appreciates the mission facility, sobering center and daily food truck. Such organizations help officers to choose appropriate treatment for homeless individuals and families. Commissioner Lilly Morgan points out that our Christian mandate is to love God and to love others. The mission is a resource for this kind of care in the community. National statistics tell us that around one-third of our female residents are treated for mental illness and 40% have been diagnosed with substance abuse (“Homelessness and its Effects on Children.” www.fhfund.org). Our goal is to help them – not to force them out on the streets again. As long as they remain drug, alcohol and tobacco free, we are willing to assist them in turning their lives around. This is how we can be good stewards of your donated funds.
What G.P. Citizens Can Do: Existing Resources & Think Tanks
You can help organizations like the Gospel Rescue Mission and other food outlets. Encourage panhandlers to visit our mission to decide if they are truly willing to change their lives for the better. Encourage local leaders to support the mission.
Faith Changes Lives
Don’t forget that a person who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord is enabled by the Holy Spirit to make valuable contributions to society. Therefore, your mission is proactive in sharing the gospel to our residents. For example, Tammy was a hardcore heroin addict who spent 23 years in and out of jail. She was tired and worn out when she came to our mission. But, she accepted Christ as her savior and became a new person. Then, Tammy died unexpectedly in her sleep at the mission. Her witness lives on and we encourage others with her story. Laura suffered from battered wife syndrome. Sadly, she passed away in a car crash. But, she shared her struggles with other mission residents as we led bible studies for abuse victims. Both ladies changed their lives for eternity.
The mission serves a valuable role in changing lives for the better as we care for the truly homeless in our Grants Pass locale. Please volunteer your time or money for those who are willing to make lasting changes.