I need to blow off some steam about something that happened at work tonight. I work as a support worker with people who are homeless, rootless or at risk of becoming so. This entails working with addicts, alcoholics, people with mental health issues and those working the streets. It is an absolute passion of mine to help these people and although I have not been employed to do this for long I know what does and does not work with this client group.
So tonight while working on our soup run four people in bright fluorescent jackets rocked up to my soup run asking who we are and what we do. It turned out that these people were from a local church who had recently begun doing outreach for the homeless on a Wednesday night offering hot drinks to the homeless and street beggars. This in itself is not a bad thing, anything that helps people in these situations can only be a good thing my issue lies in the fact that these guys are the new kids on the block rocking up to an established service attempting to poach service users is not in the best interest of said service users. My biggest bug bear is that they were actively attempting to coax my clients to their service, but they are not offering them anything past a hot drink and maybe a listening ear. Normally this is not a bad thing, the charity I work for believes strongly in service user led relationships and building relationships with service users by giving them time and not pushing an agenda. However when this takes a service user out of a situation where they are accessing a support service where they receive support that is available every day of the week and try to supplant this with just a one night a week service which only provides a hot drink this is doing harm.
What I see happening is a Church who have had the right idea but they have not followed it through properly. They have not looked at service provision already provided and looked to fill a need that exists, they have just simply had an idea and gone and done it. This for me is a massive waste of volunteer time, resources and funding that could have been utilised to do much more good in a different way. If they had looked at service provision they would have seen the nights when there is no provision and been able to set up a useful service. As it is they are providing nothing new and potentially causing harm to people who could be receiving practical help and assistance.
This is not the first time I have seen this happen, a Church sets up a scheme or program to help "the needy" but quickly burns out because they are replicating services and not providing anything of use. Like I said I have no objection to what these people are doing, helping these guys is fantastic, however by not researching the situation they are not helping they are potentially causing harm which is in no ones best interest.
One thing that I found didn't sit well with me was the need of these four to talk about God constantly. Ok, you are from a Church we get that, you want to help those who have a need, we get that too but why are you trying to convert people before you help them? Why are you presenting yourself with the unwritten proviso that by being Christian you are going to receive more help? It shouldn't be about trying to convert these people, we shouldn't be telling them that we will help them but fist we will pray about it. In time it may be that these people want to know about God, want to know why we do what we do, but it should never be something we require them to do. Help should never be provided on a basis of conversion, help should be freely given. We should be acting in a Christlike way, we should be helping these people but to do so on a basis of them listening to us sermonising is in my eyes wrong. Preach by your actions by all means, but to force your religion on someone when they don't want it is not going to win any souls.
For me the most telling part of the night was a quote from one service user who said to the Church group;
"This guy is my support worker, he looks out for me and has my back and for that I have his back. When I need help he is always there, he knows me and my situation and knows how to help. He's not just about a cup of coffee he is there when I'm rattling for drink and drugs and never judges me. I don't come here for the coffee or soup, I come here because I know he will be here and I know I can come tell him my problems and tomorrow morning he will be there to help sort them out. And any way I have enough problems as it is without you guys giving me more"
I know some people out there will disagree with me, but I am a Christian, I have a calling and a passion to help the homeless and the social outcasts, yes I want to win souls for Christ, yes I would love them to attend a Church but I am never going to force my religion on someone as recourse for providing help and I don't believe anyone else should either. If Churches are to do this sort of work they need to think about who it is they are really helping, are they doing this to ease their conscience or are they trying to help those who need it. If they are really there to help those who need it are they really providing the right kind of help or could the money be better used by professionals out there day after day providing the help these people need and really making a difference.
This blog is supposed to be, as much as I can, my daily journey through life as a Christian. I hope it to be my thoughts and feelings on life but be as grounded in the Christian message as it can. My intention is not to create a daily readings or bible study guide but to look at my life in terms of a Christian trying to find and follow God's mission using his Life User's Manuel AKA the Bible.