I get it. Your heart wants to do something for the man who can be found sitting outside across from the storage unit on Vedder or by the train tracks near Canadian Tire. So you bring him a bag of something from your closet or something you purchased at the store. You drive to find him, park at a safe distance, and approach. But you don’t understand why he won’t take your gift, why he waves you off, why he says “No thank you,” or when you persist in forcing it on him, he turns and flips out at you.
It is not because “He’s a very proud man.”
No. He’s a broken man. He’s a broken man who doesn’t want bags of things because bags attract beatings from others on the street and your gifts will get taken from him anyway. He’s a broken man who doesn’t wear gloves so he can keep small items like granola bars and cash in his hands and up his sleeves without anyone else on the street noticing. Acts of charity for items he hasn’t asked for aren’t what he needs because they put him in danger.
You know what he needs—besides a home? He needs no-strings-attached relationships. He needs people to sit on the sidewalk with him and respect his desire for silence or occasionally tell him a story. He needs us to show him we see him as a person, not a project. Projects have a planned start date and an end date. “Walk up. Drop off gift for homeless man… Done. Walk away. Act of charity: complete.” Sorry, that’s not seeing this man as a person.
Getting to know this man will take our time. If we’re going to force anything upon him, it should be our loving, caring, lavishly spent time.