Addressing the homeless and panhandlers

Conway Institute of Music

Editor’s Note: I asked Phillip Fletcher, Executive Director of City of Hope Outreach, if he would address panhandlers in Conway. Many of the panhandlers are among our homeless. Phillip dives into the top.

The context in which we live is fraught with difficulties.  I wonder if our eyes are open to recognize the difficulties people are living in at this present moment. Can we observe with our new eyes the strain people are under? Can we hear beyond the words of “I’m fine,” the possibility a person right before me simply needs my presence?  When we hear, and see someone or some group in difficulty maybe the question we need to ask is, “What will happen to him or her if I do not do something?” instead of the usual question, “What will happen to me if I do something?”

Compassion represents a very human and deep activity which places an individual in the storm of another individual’s experience.  Compassion is made up of two words, “together” and “to suffer.” I gain knowledge-hearing or seeing-about your situation and this emotion rises out of the depth of my being to propel me to embrace another person in his or her difficulty.

Why should we respond? We should respond based on the recognition of our sameness. Our sameness is rooted in the truth we are image bearers of God. I have either experienced my own suffering or I know at some point a difficulty is on the horizon. Nevertheless, I understand to be alone or to be isolated as a human being when all hell is breaking loose cannot be how I am supposed to exist.   

So, we acknowledge the humanity of another by entering difficulty. I acknowledge you are there and I acknowledge by my actions you will not be alone. Can we grasp how transformative it becomes when in the middle of my pain, my grief, my tiredness, someone says, “I see you” and “I am joining you in this moment?”  

Compassion Close to Home

Who among us in our city and state are physically and/or emotionally weary? Can we consider the homeless for a moment? The homeless are looked as potential criminals and drug users.  We must be able to recognize the homeless among us who need replenishment, rest, and refreshment. Our acts of compassion will require us to enter another person’s difficulty and say, “It is time for rest.”

As you exit the 40-Freeway or drive towards Vilonia or Greenbrier, at some point in time you will see a man or woman homeless and in need. You and I can enter the apparent suffering of another individual through acknowledgement and benevolence. Acknowledge the homeless man or woman with a welcoming smile, a wave, or most importantly a kind word. People desire to be seen by others and the experience of acknowledgement can offer a healing balm to a person who has had a long day. Second, be benevolent. Carry in your car gift cards for food, water bottles and small bags of toiletries. Also, our community has great services such as CoHO, Bethlehem House, CAPCA, and the Conway Ministry Center. Consider offering direction to these organizations so persons can find long term support.   

We are men and women who possess the capacity to act with compassion. As God entered the suffering of humanity and reconciled humanity back to himself through suffering, we can enter the suffering of humanity because Christ has triumphed. He has made us alive because he is alive. Therefore, to live means being active and aware. It means being able to move into situations which are powerfully difficult and situations in which we will not completely understand.

Let us act compassionately for the homeless.  

Phillip D. Fletcher




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