Was in Old Town Pasadena yesterday and was struck by the wild contrasts.

Homeless people all over the place and lots of upscale shopping (I won’t tell you how much I paid for soap).

The most “popping” contrast was looking at homeless people in the same field of vision as Tiffany’s Jewelry.

I live in downtown Huntington Beach, which has virtually no homeless (we are across the “Orange Curtain” from LA County), so this is not something I see a lot of.

It troubled me and the images continue to haunt my thoughts.

Some questions/statements for your Advent season musings:

1)  How can we help the homeless without controlling their mobility and freedom? The easy thing would be to round them up, lock them up, and take care of them. But can we do that in a free society?

2) Do you think that a majority of the homeless are mentally ill?  I tend to think so. What does this mean for our assumptions as we try to help?

3) Is human contact and genuinely “showing up” for them helpful, or would they rather we just gave to them?

4) I saw one “operator” collecting cash from several homeless “employees” (a la Oliver and the Artful Dodger). Is this the exception or more widespread than we think?

5) Homeless means “no home.” What if basic shelter were guaranteed? Who should provide it? Churches? Government? Benefactors?

6) Do you feel taken advantage of when you give money and it ends up making things worse (i.e. “give a drunk a drink”)

7) Would Jesus stop and give money to each of them?

8) I am reminded of my Bible teacher at the University of Bonn in Germany, Wolfgang Schrage, who used to go for walks with me through the downtown area. He always had a pocket of 2-DM coins (worth $1.50) which he would hand out while conversing with each homeless person–he knew them all by name. Something was right about that. What are your thoughts?

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The best street ministers I know are the Enoch folks in LA’s skid row. Follow them and support them. They are the real deal.