"The poor will always be with you" – Jesus

Ain’t that the truth. I met a couple of homeless people yesterday. They are living in tents beside the Des Moines River. It was 5 degrees last night. The ground is still bare. What’s it going to be like in a week or two? When there’s a foot and a half of snow on the ground? Nearly 10 years ago I felt the need to help brown people “over there”. There are some fantastic groups for that just here in Central Iowa. One is Meals From the Heartland! They bag up rice and beans and send it overseas with very little overhead.

Domestically there are a bunch of good groups. I’m not talking about ones like Red Cross where most of the money goes to offices, overhead and symposiums, I’m talking about ones that meet the need. The can of food. The blanket. The sleeping bag. The propane tank. The pair of boots. Rubber hits the road stuff. The guy I shook hands with yesterday had a pus filled wound oozing from his hand. What about medical treatment? How do you wash when its below 50 degrees?

There are so many classes of poor. The poor “over there” who aren’t living in the richest nation on the globe. The poor here who are barely hanging on but have a roof over their head if not always as much food as they’d like. The poor thrown out of their home but still have family or friends to help out. The poor who have been knocked upside the head by unexpected medical costs. The poor who no longer grasp reality due to a booze or drug problem.

The poor who aren’t in their right mind due to a myriad of mental health problems. As has been brilliantly noted by me before, lack of a “home” is rarely their problem. Its most often just the visible symptom. So where do you give your limited resources? I know a church that devotes its kitchen to providing a meal everyday to people who need it. The organizers seem more interested in recycling uneaten restaurant food then they do in providing a good meal.

Which highlights a problem all of us have: “Are we providing for their need? Or ours? Are we succumbing to our own peccadillos or are we thinking logically? While we are busy “handing out fish“, are we devoting an equal amount of time to “teaching them how to fish“? As mentioned in the paragraph above, one of the organizers of the meals to the needy seems more interested in fulfilling their need to feel good by recycling uneaten food. A prime example is reusing unused baked potatoes from restaurants.

There is nothing worse than using day old baked potatoes in a recipe that calls for fresh. Particularly ridiculous in that example is that a 10 pound bag of potatoes can be had for $5 bucks (if that). That would easily suffice for the amount of people they serve at each meal. Instead they satisfy the fetish of one greenie and serve horribly tasting day old potatoes.

One great example of helping the homeless was from an old movie in the 1940’s. Metropolitan areas would take an old unused warehouse and use it for floor space for cots. Heated, access to a toilet, maybe a shower, safe. The fee was .25 cents (a quarter). For those not familiar with inflation, a 1940 quarter would be worth about $3 bucks today. Not a huge sum by any means. It did require something from the homeless person. The small fee provided for the electricity, water, maybe a staff member to run the place. (500 people at $3 bucks a pop is $1,500 a night. That’s $45,000 a month. Self sustaining.)

We’ve forgotten most of the old ways. The ways that worked. CCC, “missions”, we’ve made the simple act of helping people illegal for the most part. Work requirements, listening to a sermon before help is given, we’ve made philanthropy impossible to give. So now we have people living by the river. We provide tarps and propane tanks. Cold weather sleeping bags. Don’t get me wrong, its important for the guy out there tonight, but is that the long view? Is that Normandy? Is that putting a man on the Moon? Is that the Erie Canal? Is that the Transcontinental Railroad?

Joppa 118 SE 4th Street #120 Des Moines, IA 50309  

(515) 288-5699 Local info@joppa.org

Published by Iowa Life

Experiencing life in Iowa.

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