Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The story continues

Many of you have made comments through this blog and to me personally that you have been interested in our work with the homeless. It has been a few months since I have written much about our current situation and think it's worth an update for various reasons.  

1) We continue to "house" homeless....I use the word house loosely since we don't provide indoor accommodations, rather we allow people to sleep on the sidewalks covered by balconies and eaves at the church.  We have 3 or 4 that are pretty standard and have been there for months now, and some added new people, plus one guy who was there for awhile, moved to Phoenix, and is now back.  

2) We have started offering Monday morning showers.  One man has volunteered to come and be there to open up and someone else cleans the towels so there are fresh towels each week.  This has been an adventure because towels regularly go missing and some people take FOREVER in the shower, and others think 8 or 9 is still too early to be up...

3) We continue to offer hot breakfast on Sunday mornings as part of the all church meal.  That meal/fundraiser is over in a week or so, but we know that food is still important for these brothers and sisters, so some members are coordinating cooks for each week to cook for 8-12 people so the homeless can still eat through the summer months. 

4) One member volunteered to start a Bible study for the homeless and that has been going for a couple months now.  She regularly has 2 or 3 other members out there with her.  This has been great to do scriptural teachings with these folks and to help members connect on a different level.  We have one of the men now starting to attend worship regularly and he has requested a Vietnamese Bible so he can get more out of Bible study (and I'm just lucky enough to have the DS who has done the first authentic Vietnamese translation of the Bible...the other was done by second language learner missionaries decades ago...)

5) We did allow a couple in a motorhome to stay.  The agreement was for a month and that time lapsed into 6 weeks and we ran into some complicating factors and asked them to leave immediately.  They refused for more than a week and the police ended up getting involved before they left.  It was hard to know that they were in violation of the agreement we had made and had not done what we asked and to know we had to be heavy handed but to also know how hard it is/was for them and to pray for good to happen at the same time.  

6) I got a call this week from a concerned neighbor.  He had seen someone sleeping on the balcony and wanted to know if we were aware.  (he was expecting we weren't).  I happened to answer the phone myself and talked with him. I said I understood his concern, and explained our position.  I tried to offer our experiences and positions on things like hygiene, bathrooms, and crime, but told him that if he wasn't satisfied that he could still call the police (what he originally intended to do) or talk with our city councilman (who I had just spoken with the week before about this very issue).  I also said I'd be willing to talk with him further if he was interested.   I do understand his concerns and take them seriously.  I am also slightly amused because people have been sleeping at our church for over a year now and he just now noticed...

7)  I emailed our city councilman right away to tell him about the phone call and what we are doing.  I wanted him to be aware and hear from me first.  He kindly responded after he talked to our neighbor and expressed both concern and encouragement.  He, too, understands that what the city offers is not enough to cover all the needs and there are more people out there, and that the church needs to be part of the solution.  

8)  Now it's time for some church folks to meet again to reassess what we are doing, plan a strategy if Mr. Neighbor rallies support against our ministries, and figure out what we plan to do and start looking at more long range responses.  All along we've known what we were doing  were temporary bandaid fixes, but we've also known we needed to do something.  So, now it's time to look again and figure out where we go from here.  

1 comment:

Bart said...

It's exciting to read about you ministering to the community you are that literally surrounds you. It's hard to do when the divisions that separate are socio-economic to such an extreme.

Also, all fixes are band-aid types to an extent until the Kingdom is established in a more real and pervasive way, no?

I used to live down the street from my church in a neighborhood that the city had written off. Many home-less slept around our house and the church. It was hard not to worry about enabling the population when a lot of violence, drug use, and prostitution resulted from the community of homeless (mostly men) living in our neighborhood.

After a couple of gun shots hit our house and our car (in broad day-light) I had to move... OUr 4 year old couldn't play in the yard anymore. The culprits were men living in the area around the church.

So the problem is complicated. We can't NOT hold people accountable for lawful behavior that doesn't threaten others...BUT we must advocate for them, minister to them, and work to find a solution that allows them dignity.

What's the solution...probably not something I can rattle off in a blog post. But I will pray for you and your church to find it and to keep ministering to all of the inhabitants of your community.