"Criminals," "addicts," and "mentally ill," are some of the ways people view the homeless. However, one Christian ministry in the fight chooses to label these people "children of God."
Increasing crime in New York City's subways, including a tragic murder in which a young woman was pushed in front of an oncoming train allegedly by a homeless man, led Mayor Eric Adams to release the Subway Safety Plan in which city workers will relocate the vast numbers of homeless people living in the subways to shelters.
"We pretended as though we didn't see it and we allowed them to live in inhumane environments," he said.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled CARE Court which would create mental health courts in each county and offer treatment to homeless people with mental illness, and in some cases requiring people to submit to treatment. The measure has yet to be approved by the state legislature.
"I mean, we can hold hands, have a candlelight vigil, talk about the way the world should be," said Gov. Newsom, "or we could take some d*** responsibility and implement our ideals, and that's what we're doing differently here."
While governments play a major role in addressing homelessness, Christian ministries, such as Dream Center Hampton Roads in Norfolk, Virginia, are also helping people who live on the street.
Co-founder David McBride, pastor of New Life Church Ghent told CBN News, six years ago, he was inspired to start the ministry by the parable of the Good Samaritan.
"A Christian response to homelessness is one, stop for the one, I say two, learn the story, three, never, ever, underestimate the power of prayer," he said.
Co-founder Nick Noel told CBN News the ministry helps connect people currently living on the streets to various nearby resources such as shelters, employment training centers, addiction recovery programs, and mental health services.
"There's tons of resources out there," he said, "sometimes not enough, but sometimes there's more than what some people know."
Another pillar of Dream Center Hampton Roads involves focusing on personal, long-term relationships. Church volunteers develop non-judgmental, one-on-one relationships, with appropriate boundaries, with people who need help. Pastor McBride compares it to a mentoring program with the goal of helping people identify and achieve their dreams.
"We're trying to get them to discover who God created them to be," he explained, "What's your dream career? What is the dream purpose that God has put in you? How can we restore that dream? How can we recover that dream so that when you walk down the street no one looks at your forehead and it says 'homeless.' They look at you and say, 'son and daughter of God?'"
In addition to sending homeless people to nearby services, Dream Center Hampton Roads also trains volunteers to offer certain services as part of the ministry.
Noel says while crimes involving homeless individuals grab headlines, many people currently living on the street are not criminals, addicts or mentally ill.
"Less than half of the folks we deal with have those situations," he said. "Now the ones that do, they're bigger barriers. It's just one extra thing that has to be overcome in their dream restoration process."
Many people find themselves living on the streets through no fault of their own. "Somebody coming in town for a job that didn't work out, or started, and got laid off," Noel said. "Recently we've had a real ramp-up in domestic violence situations."
A hot meal opened the door for Zach Sarro to accept help from Dream Center Hampton Roads.
"I came one day to eat when I was homeless on the streets," he told CBN News. "They offered me a meal and saw that I was young and sat down with me and tried to get to know me, and I opened up to them slowly and they've helped me ever since."
He got a job, an apartment, and gave his life to Jesus.
"I wouldn't be the man that I am today without the help that The Dream Center provided," Sarro said.
So while government-sponsored shelters and services definitely help the homeless, Dream Center Hampton Roads shows the difference the church and Christians with a personal interest can make in the lives of those currently living on the streets.
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