Solving Homelessness

I’m Lisa Li and homelessness is an issue that is close to my heart.

I am a small business owner and the founder of a website I created that serves as an online directory and resource for homeless people across Oklahoma.

I was homeless around ten years ago in Oklahoma where there was no shelter and very few resources. I nearly froze to death in winter but I was kept alive thanks to the generosity of a Christian charity, that ultimately saved my life when the state, state, and even the Red Cross would not. The mental and emotional scars from those days will never be erased. While I did escape homelessness, it was not without hard work and sacrifice.

Homelessness is an issue that I can speak on both sides of. There is no quick fix or easy solution, for a homeless person in a temporary shelter is still homeless. If we want to see the homeless housed, we need to address the root causes of the issues – be it drug addiction, disability, mental health, financial issues, domestic violence, or unemployment.

When I was homeless, I was angry and frustrated with the lack of support and assistance, and the essential criminalization of homelessness. Being rushed off by police while trying to sleep felt like a cruel and heartless act.

However, I also have come to recognize that handouts create expectations and dependence, that do not address the root causes of homelessness, and the laws and ordinances are necessary for public safety and producing a functioning society. Without being held accountable, it would have enabled my behavior and resulted in me being homeless far longer than I was. It reminds me of this quote:

“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” ― G. Michael Hopf, Those Who Remain

My experience changed me and ultimately made me a better person, but that is not the case with everyone. For not all share my perspective, and many may resort to crime or other harmful activities as a result of such treatment and neglect.

Cities have the responsibility of maintaining order and upholding laws to keep society functioning and people safe. Should they be really be expected to help the homeless?

To the government, the homeless are not people, they're just numbers. But to a charity with people who volunteer because they care, that's where the homeless are more likely to be treated like human beings.

Over the course of my life I've been on welfare and I've had government assistance, but it's not something I ever really appreciated. It was more of an expectation of big brother government to take care of my needs.

But the help I received from individuals, churches, and non-profits will forever be etched in my memory and my heart grateful for their kindness and generosity. That gratitude is what helps brings hope and is a source of motivation.

That gratitude also comes with guilt, for if I do not try, then I fail those who are trying to help me. It is like fuel to keep going, and that is not the case with the government as the assistance becomes more like a requirement and one that I would be more likely to be dependent on.

If you understand human nature, people typically hate changing themselves because it is very difficult. We won't change if we are too comfortable. That is why many go on welfare and struggle to get off it. So long as that assistance keeps coming in, things can be comfortable enough to maintain that standard and not make the effort and sacrifices needed to break free of that dependence.

However, with the right balance of support, encouragement, and accountability from non-government sources, it becomes far more possible to escape from homelessness and continue to have a home. Many would achieve success, pursue an education, and achieve greater levels of success than they would receive through government assistance alone.

This is not to say that the welfare system is outright bad, I just believe it is simply missing components that are more naturally found through assistance given by churches, ministries, non-profits, and charitable individuals would truly make it more effective.

This is what leads me to believe that shelters run by non-profits, ministries, and churches will be far more effective in helping the homeless than city or state-run shelters. Cities and states could help the homeless in far more meaningful ways.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Forming a homeless solutions committee made of up law enforcement, mental health professionals, former homeless individuals, and other professionals
  • Implementing new city ordinances that encourage positive behaviors and discourage bad behaviors designed to help the homeless get what assistance they need while keeping the community safe
  • Incentivize collaborative action by offering benefits to local businesses, non-profits, and churches to become involved in helping the homeless
  • Expanding housing through zoning changes, make it easy for people to rent out rooms and build additions to their home or property that could be rented out
  • Allocating funds strategically to support services locally and across the state
  • Provide (or expand) public transportation for the homeless
  • Invest in mobile, temporary shelter like micro shelters, vans, or other units that can be relocated to different areas to prevent one area from experiencing a massive increase in crime
  • Fostering community engagement through marketing and awareness campaigns that encourage people to become involved by donating, volunteering, or otherwise supporting the efforts

There are many things that cities can do, but there are also far more things that we, as a community, can do together to address this issue.

It is the responsibility of the whole community to take care of the people who are in need, and any deference of that responsibility to government agencies does more harm than good in more ways than one, as I explained earlier.

Many churches are neglecting their duties to serve as the hands and feet of Christ. It is like they are sleeping at the wheel. If all the churches did their part, all who needed help would receive it while witnessing to those in need and helping change those hearts and minds for God's glory - all would benefit and be blessed.

Christians should consider this scripture:

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

We are not only called to give clothing, food, and shelter to the homeless, we are called to feed the spiritual hunger and the thirst for sincere and genuine care, love, and compassion that each person longs for. God rewards the faithful in body, mind, and spirit:

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

This is not merely a problem of logistics or resources—it is a matter of heart and accountability. It requires all of us, working in concert, to strike a careful balance between compassion and firm guidance.

If we get this balance right, we have the power to transform lives and, in the process, reach new heights of compassion, prosperity, and shared success across the entire state, and hopefully beyond.

Lisa Li
Author: Lisa Li

I'm the founder and creator of Oklahoma Homeless Resources. I own and manage my own business building websites and designing graphics, called Making The Impact LLC.

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