REAL LIFE CASE STUDY: The Police Are Asking A Church Not to Help the Poor. What Would You Do?

Charity Detox Test Case

An active congregation desires to faithfully engage low-income neighbors, many of whom come to their door from an extended stay motel asking for help. Read their scenario and offer your thought on responsible ways to engage.

Our church is located right across the street from a Motel 6.  A significant number homeless people and people in transition live there.  Drugs and prostitution are rampant at the motel.  A steady flow of people from Motel 6 approach our church for financial assistance each week.  Small children that are poorly dressed and hungry often accompany their parents that are seeking assistance.  Each family has a heart breaking story that explains their crisis and they claim they will have to sleep on the streets if the church doesn’t help them.  The church has a small food pantry where we provide basic necessities and we offer information about local homeless shelters.  Some families gladly take the food, however many families insist that we give them cash.  Our church as a policy that we never give cash directly to people that are seeking assistance.  Almost every family bulks at the idea of going to a shelter because the shelters are either too far away or are unsafe.  Our church values relational ministry that seeks to get at the root of the problem rather that only addressing the symptoms.   Our experience has taught us, that when we do help the families, we never see them again.  So we are left wondering if we are really helping the people or simply wasting our money.  We also have an issue with the homeless people coming to our services on Sunday and approaching our members and asking them for money.  Our security team asks them to stop the first time.  And we ask them to leave the second time we see them approaching people to ask for money.  We want to be gracious, but we quickly get frustrated.  To further complicate the situation, the local police chief has asked our church to stop helping the people at Motel 6 because we are only making the problem worse by making it possible for families to stay there longer.  A consultant recently suggested that our church buy the Motel 6 property and eliminate our opportunities and challenges by transforming the function of the space.  Buying the property for millions of dollars is not an option for the church.  What would you do?   

Posted on November 3, 2014 .