Handouts for the Homeless

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United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information
810 12th Avenue S.
Nashville, TN 37203

Feb. 5, 2009

Handouts for the Homeless
Are You a Servant? Or Just a Sucker?

Nashville: It's happened to most everyone. Chances are someone has come up to you on the street and asked for a handout. They might share a hard luck story, or just plead for spare cash. What do you do? Ignore them? Hand over some money? Refuse, fearing the money will go for alcohol or drugs? Give only to organized charities that help the poor? What's the best way to help someone in need without feeling you've been taken?

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, approximately 3.5 million people are likely to experience homelessness in a given year.

"People who panhandle come from every social class, all types of backgrounds, but they have one thing in common: they beg because it works. While some are victims of failed social policies, economic realities, discrimination and addiction, others bring their situations upon themselves. Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps isn't as easy as it sounds," said the Rev. Beth Lindsay Templeton, who directs Our Eyes Were Opened, a program that teaches people how to make wise and compassionate decisions for helping people in poverty. "But, giving people money on-the-spot does not necessarily help them pull out of a cycle that gets them no where," she adds.

Ministry with the poor is one of four long-term "areas of focus" for The United Methodist Church. However, many people who want to reach out don't know the best way to really help.

A new resource from United Methodist Communicationsprovides a five-session, small-group DVD-based study (hosted by Templeton) that helps viewers discern appropriate, Christ-centered actions when it comes to addressing poverty on a personal or organizational level. Servant or Sucker? Wise and Compassionate Ways to Help the Poor includes realities of poverty including the concepts of time, relationships, money and values; a poverty tour; interviews with those who are homeless or poor; interviews with those who have helped and/or have been suckered; and steps you can take to be an effective servant without getting suckered.

"As people of faith, we know we are called to reach out to others," said Templeton. "A lot of us just don't know how. Servant or Sucker? shows, in very practical terms, how to do that."

The resource can be used by churches, civic and community organizations and individuals to gain insights into various issues related to poverty and giving the poor and homeless what they need rather than what they want.

Templeton says that, ironically, sometimes the best thing to do is tell someone "no"-but there are certain ways to do that. She offers these tips for how to respond to those who are poor and marginalized in a kind, respectful manner that actually does some good rather than harm.

  • Find out the person's name to acknowledge his or her humanity
  • If a person asks for food: give food, not money
  • Don't believe everything you hear

Produced by EcuFilm, Servant or Sucker? is now available for $39.95 from United Methodist Communications by visiting the Web site (www.ecufilm.org), calling toll free 888-346-3862 or e-mailing [email protected].

NOTE TO EDITORS: If you are interested in previewing a copy, contact Cindy Solomon at [email protected].

Media Contact: Diane Degnan
(615) 742-5406 (office)
(615) 483-1765 (cell)
[email protected]

About United Methodist Communications
As the communications agency for The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Communications seeks to increase awareness and visibility of the denomination in communities and nations around the globe. United Methodist Communications also offers services, tools, products and resources for communications ministry, and operates EcuFilm, which provides an extensive selection of ecumenical DVD resources for use in Sunday school programs, Bible studies and other small-group discussions.

About Our Eyes Were Opened
Our Eyes Were Opened is a division of United Ministries, a faith-based organization that aids persons who are homeless, experiencing financial crisis, or lacking education or employment skills. United Ministrieswas begun in 1970 by the South Carolina United Methodist conference and today involves about 90 congregations from many faith groups. Founded in 2007, Our Eyes Were Opened grew out of Rev. Beth Templeton's 25+ year's experience at United Ministries. Rev. Templeton, an ordained Presbyterian minister, is director of the program.

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