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Looking for an answer to a question about homelessness? Check out some of the most frequently asked questions. Can't find an answer to your question? Contact us with your question and we will try and get an answer for you

People are homeless for many different reasons. Some have disasters and tragedies that occur like a fire or flood. Others become homeless over time after money dwindles and they lose their housing. Others are plagued by substance abuse, physical or mental disabilities or war trauma. Because of all of these factors, there is not one appropriate answer for this question. As with most questions like this, the real question lies just underneath this question. We should be asking why someone is still homeless. What are the barriers that are keeping them in the grips of homelessness? How is their income situation? What is their access to mental and physical healthcare? Who are the support networks around them that care and can empower them to overcome homelessness? Oftentimes we find that people remain homeless because of fractured relational connections. Without people to support, encourage and uplift, there is little motivation to better one's life.

If people remain homeless because of fractured relationships, the best way to start helping the homeless is to begin building those relationships up. Getting to know people without passing judgment goes a long way towards helping people overcome  homeless. If you feel comfortable, we would encourage you to stop and talk to people you see on the street. If you are not at that place yet, join one of our organizations on opportunities where we do just that. As you are equipped and empowered to share life with another, you will see your awareness and compassion rise and inevitably, homeless will begin to decrease in our community.

This is one of the most often asked questions. First, don't panic. This person is real and probably just as afraid as you are. Relax and try to engage in a conversation with the person. For that to happen, you need to make sure to leave yourself plenty of time. If this person is on your regular route, plan to leave a little early so you can spend some quality time with the individual. You can even suggest getting together at a more convenient time for the both of you as you might be turned away because the person is 'working'. 

When confronted with someone panhandling, remember the question is not 'is this person's story true?' The question is 'what series of events led to this person being in a position to have to ask others for money?' There could be good reasons or bad reason, but either way, it is important to try and empathize with the person. Remember asking people for money is uncomfortable no matter who is doing it. Very few people would say they enjoy it, and the homeless are no different. So if they don't enjoy it, why are they doing it? That is the question.

Don't fall into the trap of limiting the way you respond. Saying 'all I do is give people food' is not helpful for you or the person. They might want food, but they might want money. If you are truly interested in helping the person, you can't assume you know exactly how to help a person without talking to them first. So make an effort to talk. It will make the help you give much more impactful. 

Lastly, don't be afraid to use your resources. There was a reason that you came in contact with that person and why you feel burdened to address their needs. After getting to know the person (name, city/neighborhood or origin, family background, goals/dreams/wishes), see how your connections could help. Do you know someone that rents apartments? Or maybe a restaurant that is hiring? Using your connections will prove more beneficial than just trying to call an organization to come and fix the situation. Remember, we are just people too. Our desire is to empower you, not just enable you. If you do call an organization, be prepared for us to equip you with resources to go back and address with that individual. You have the relationship and you should be the one to use that relationship to help provide the best care for that person.

According the the Allegheny County Point in Time Survey, there were 1156 individuals counted as homeless in 2016. This is a decrease from the 1424 counted in 2015. The number of street homeless rose from 38 to 48 however. The national average for homelessness in a community is 1% of the general population. In Pittsburgh, there are 305,000 people, so one would expect about 3,000 homeless individuals. Our numbers are a bit less because of the cold, distance from major cities, and access to jobs.