Understanding the Problem

At Holland Rescue Mission, it’s our desire to see homelessness end for every person who walks through our doors. We strive to achieve this goal by offering a hand up, not a handout.

What does that mean?

We seek to meet the immediate needs of our guests by providing excellent hospitality through the accommodations of shelter and food. Clothing needs are addressed on a case-by-case basis. We then help our guests determine what their long-term needs are through an initial assessment meeting with Holland Rescue Mission staff.

How does it work?

We seek to assist each guest in developing a plan for their forward focus. Many of our guests are alone as they stumble along life’s highway, hindered by various obstacle and/or barriers. By offering such things as safe community living, counseling, budgeting, and goal-setting, we journey with our guests, endeavoring to turn obstacles into opportunities. By expecting such things as work ethic, responsibility, and respect for others, we partner with out guests to set them up for successful independent living. And most importantly, by proclaiming the gospel message in all that we do, we demonstrate that all of this is possible because of the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.

What can you do?

The Holland Rescue Mission has been blessed over the many years since its inception with generosity of persons like yourself. We are extremely thankful! And the need still exists today. Reaching out to those in our midst who are hurting, and are burdened, who are struggling, send an encouraging message of hope. Whether you give of your time, your talents, or your treasures to the Holland Rescue Mission, know that you are making an investment that may change the entire course of someone’s life forever. What CAN you do? Perhaps the better question is, “what WILL you do?”

Common Excuses for Not Getting Help

Quite often, panhandlers will have seemingly good reasons why they won’t come to Holland Rescue Mission. Here are some of the most common excuses they use, as well as the policies and truths behind them.

 “The Mission took my money.”
All clients are required to participate in a money management program to teach them how to make wise financial decisions. An account is created for them so they can save for whatever is necessary for them to move toward independence, such as rent for their own apartment. They can request money out of their account for any necessities they may have.

 “The Mission wouldn’t let me have my medication.”
We evaluate every person’s situation and allow medications in many instances. We do not allow possession of narcotic pain medication on our property due to issues with addiction. However, we do have nurses on staff who will work with clients and their doctors to recommend a non-narcotic form of pain relief as needed.

 “The Mission would make me get a job, and I’m unable to work.”
We believe working and earning money is a necessary part of functioning in society. However, we are also sensitive to the fact that there are people who are physically or mentally unable to work. Clients who can verify with a doctor’s statement that they are unable to work will be assigned 20 hours a week of volunteer work instead of searching for a job.

 “I was kicked out of Holland Rescue Mission.”
Common reasons people are asked to leave the Mission are failures to adhere to rules — such as abstaining from substance abuse — that we believe are necessary to overcoming homelessness. If there are clients who have been banned from the Mission, we will assist them by providing transportation to another shelter. It’s important to note that we believe strongly in offering grace alongside accountability.

 “I’m not within the Mission’s district.”
If someone has a valid reason to come to this area, we will do our best to accommodate them. Otherwise, we will assist them in locating a safe shelter in their own area.

 “The Mission said they were too full.”
We never stop taking people because we’re full.  We may have to pull out mattresses to put on the floor and the situation may not be ideal, but we will never turn people away for lack of space.

 “They wouldn’t let me bring my pets.”
It is true that we are not able to accommodate animals at Holland Rescue Mission. The Humane Society may be able to house someone’s pets for a short time. Otherwise, we recommend talking to family or friends to see if someone might be able to house the animal for a short time while someone participates in our programs. Our goal is for the Mission to be a temporary shelter until someone can get back on their feet and find a permanent home, so they should be reunited with their furry friends again soon!

If you have any questions or are unsure about whether Holland Rescue Mission is right for someone you know, call us at 616.396.2200.

We will gladly listen to every story of need, and do our best to either offer assistance through Holland Rescue Mission or provide a referral to other agencies that are better for their situation.

Seven Guidelines for Giving

The St. Louis Provident Association* had seven rules that they followed for giving. Although they were written over 150 years ago, we find these rules to be surprisingly relevant to today’s issue of panhandling. We keep them in mind on a day-to-day basis, and hope you will, too.

  1. To give relief only after personal investigation of each case — this requires time and the development of a real relationship with someone.
  2. To give necessary articles and only what is immediately necessary we meet immediate needs of food, clothing, and shelter and then evaluate long-term solutions.
  3. To give what is least susceptible to abuse most often, money is not the answer and can often lead to further harm.
  4. To give only in small quantities, in proportion to immediate need; and less than might be procured by labor, except in cases of sickness instead of money, often the best answer is to provide someone with a sandwich, a beverage, or a ride to a local shelter.
  5. To give assistance at the right moment; not to prolong it beyond the duration of the necessity which it calls for sometimes people are in greater need of a long-term program to recover from their situation, and this needs to be considered instead of just a quick fix. “Meeting a chronic need with an emergency response harms people.” (Robert Lupton, Toxic Charity)
  6. To require of each beneficiary abstinence from intoxicating liquors this requires accountability and is a critical component for lasting health and prosperity.
  7. To discontinue relieving all who manifest a purpose to depend on alms rather than their own exertions for support panhandling is not a long-term solution to meeting immediate needs, and we must look to other ways to alleviate this problem and provide lasting change in the lives of these people.

*The St. Louis Provident Association began in the late 1850s to distribute supplies to the poor.  The purpose of the Association was to alleviate the growing poverty in St. Louis. The Provident Association sought to improve the social conditions and business climate by identifying the truly needy and providing them with food, shelter and social services. It also worked to rehabilitate the poor, encouraging applicants to view their poverty — and assistance from the Association — as temporary.

Panhandling and Homelessness

What is panhandling, you might ask? It’s when someone on the streets begs strangers for money.

To be clear, panhandling is not the same as homelessness. Not all who are homeless panhandle, and not everyone who panhandles is actually homeless. It is our belief that most panhandlers in Holland are not homeless.

Ask yourself: Will the money you give to panhandlers support what you think it’s going to be used for?

Many times, people give to panhandlers out of guilt without considering whether the gift is truly helpful to the panhandler. Though we would never fault a person who felt a calling to give, it’s important to realize that sometimes a desire to give does not result in help for the receiver.

At Holland Rescue Mission, we want to be a resource for the community, providing real solutions to the growing problem of panhandling in West Michigan.

Our vision is to:

  • EDUCATE the community on panhandling and homelessness.
  • HELP people find real solutions to their needs.

Helping Panhandlers and the Homeless

  1. Never give cash to a panhandler. Too often, well-intended gifts are converted to drugs, alcohol, or other unanticipated purposes — even when the “hard luck” stories you hear are true. If someone is hungry, buy them a sandwich and a beverage. Even better, hand them one of our cards that directs them to our shelter where they can learn to overcome their situation and make a lasting change. If you would like these free cards to hand out during street encounters, you can pick them up at either of our ministry locations.
  2. Speak with respect. Taking time to talk with a homeless person or a panhandler in a friendly, respectful manner can give them a wonderful sense of civility and dignity. In addition to being neighborly, it can help fight the isolation, depression, and paranoia that many people on the streets may feel.
  3. Be educated. Read The Truth About Panhandling for some quick facts and common excuses to learn more about panhandling. The answers may surprise you.
  4. Share God’s love. While we are against the practice of panhandling, we still care about the person who is panhandling, and we hope you will make that distinction as well. The last thing we want is for panhandlers or the poor-at-large to be despised, or for our hearts to become hardened to those in need. First and foremost, we want to share God’s love and meet the real needs of His people.
  5. Point panhandlers and homeless towards true help. West Michigan is full of organizations built to help those in need. Holland Rescue Mission offers immediate food and shelter to the people experiencing homelessness through our emergency shelters, as well as long-term rehabilitation and discipleship programs that deal with the root causes of homelessness. We will gladly provide you with cards that contain our address and contact information to hand out to people you encounter on the streets.
  6. Support Holland Rescue Mission. The only way Holland Rescue Mission  functions is with support from caring individuals, churches, businesses, and civic groups who see the value of sharing their resources with the less fortunate. We would love to tell you more about the Mission and how your support is at work — call our Volunteer Coordinator at 616.928.3407 with any questions, to schedule a tour, or to learn about volunteer opportunities.