What are the best ways of helping people?

helping-handsEvery Tuesday at WLM’s centre for homeless people at Seymour Place in central London, we have a Spirituality Discussion Group for our homeless clients. Even though membership of the group changes frequently, the group decides themselves the topics it wants to discuss. Its one the highlights of my job when I am invited to lead a session.

Last week, I led a discussion on ‘What are the best ways to help people?’

We started off by discussing what parts of the Bible refer to helping others. We brainstormed a list of stories, teachings and commandments which relate to this question. The group showed a rich knowledge of verses and passages from both the Old Testament, as well as Jesus’ example and teaching and the life of the early Church.

We then discussed, what makes helping people difficult?  The group was very honest and we listed things like not knowing what to do, not having the resources, some people’s problems being too big, addictions, mental health problems and the difficulties of enforcing our agenda onto someone else.

I then asked the group for their top tips for helping people and we wrote them up and discussed them as a group.  We agreed that it was good to avoid being naive on one hand – but also avoiding being cynical on the other. Both of these responses are not very helpful. A word that was used a number of times was wisdom. We needed wisdom to know how to really help people in a way that actually helps them.


So this is the wisdom shared by the group of homeless people:

  1. Point people to where they can get the right help for the issues they face

  2. Be ‘with’ people and be available

  3. Help them get to a place where they want help – it has to come from them

  4. Accept them for who they are – don’t avoid or threaten if they don’t take the help

  5. Be truthful and genuine

  6. Take time and build relationships

  7. Be aware of your own motives – why are you helping?

  8. Speak up for the underlying causes behind the issues e.g. London needs more basic accommodation


I think these responses are really worth reflecting on.  It was not a scientific study – there were just 6 homeless people part of the group that day and I am aware that my presence could have influenced what was discussed. But I think there is real wisdom in what was shared and I was struck by the humanity and thoughtfulness of what was said.

I shared this list with colleagues and my church home group the next day and it sparked a really honest and helpful discussion about how we respond to people around us.  Maybe you could do something similar with a group or team you are part of?

About Jon Kuhrt

Jon Kuhrt works with people affected by homelessness, offending and addictions at the West London Mission. He, his wife and three children live in Streatham, south London. He likes football...but loves cricket.
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One Response to What are the best ways of helping people?

  1. not given says:

    Hi there.

    The real answer to what to do to help others is to simply do what one would do for themselves.

    If those who say they do not have the resorces had a blood brother in that situation or a son they would simply find it whether they looked at available funding or worked over time, did a fundraiser even if it was on line or whatever they would do for themselves. Cutting out fancy things or that new iten they could wait for. These are things most would only do for themselves and very close family.

    Not knowing what to do?
    If it were for ourselves we would simply find out.

    Mental health issues?
    Local mp could be contacted. Search for lists of mental health services. Call social services for direction or just google the question.

    Drug abuse.
    Find out the closest rehab centre. Pick up leaflets snd give them out. See if theres a local outreach team. Speak yo the council and see if theres a directory or other options.

    Those unable to use the net request help as if it were something they needed themselves, use a directory, look for a free internet course even if its for 4 weeks. Thats commitment. I took a mental health course, a counselling course and a drug and alcohol rehab course, i had virtually no money and sacrificed what i could have done with the scrapings i had yet bought them food weekly and other things and persevered. Travel was a cost. Equipment was a cost. The Bible says “when” we give to the poor we lend to God. God honours sacrifice rather than what is just “spare”. (See mark 12:41-44 also)

    Well for a start, asking them what they need.
    If you want to know someone’s name you would not wonder or guess you would just ask.

    If someone is homeless then food bedding and toiletries is possible but long term they clearly need shelter. Call and ask the local housing department the procedure after finding out their situation.

    Simply look at the situation. See what is needed. Google that particular thing to find help as if it were personal. I did this and lives have been saved.

    True commitment to a selfless cause is NEVER toil free.
    Its whether we truly want to commit.

    I have noticed that nobody mentioned prayer?

    That should be the first point of call for “anything” in the life of any believer. We do not need to know what to as long as God does. (Prov 3:5, Eph 6:18, 1 Thess 5:15 – 18). If theres a real relationship prayer is a natural way of life.

    God, how can i help these people? If it is your will please use me to help them. Amen

    We must then listen and be ready to accept the answer and move.

    Really good article here. Good subject thankd.

    Blessings

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