I've always been a bit of a soft touch when it comes to folk looking for handouts from the church. And I've been scammed a few times. So while, perhaps that makes me slightly more cautious, I still feel instinctively that, for folk to come to "the church" whom I represent, asking for help, takes a lot and betrays a real need at some level.
Recently, the number of requests has steadily increased. I'm not sure that this is due to word getting around. I think, rather, it is more an indication of how the recession is deepening and affecting more folk.
There has also been a growth in the number of food banks emerging. This is good and, indeed, our congregation regularly contribute to one of these. However, there does seem to be a disproportionate amount of red tape to be negotiated before relief is given. And that concerns me. Of course there will always be those who abuse any system but there also has to be a way to trust that folk are as desperate as they claim to be and to provide immediate relief until other services can be accessed.
I wish I knew how to draw up a robust policy in helping the hungry and the homeless and I am also aware of my own vulnerability in some situations but there is the very real danger that turning away "the least of these" would be to turn away Christ, the one who "took on flesh and moved into the neighbourhood."
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