For more than 2 years we have been "battling" with 2 different homeless folks that we serve. We've been in ministry with them nearly twice that time, but 2+ years ago it became a thing. A thing where we had been asking and asking and asking and asking that they not stay the night and not hang out on church property when they weren't attending a church function. We had issues with altercations, shopping carts set on fire, the police, and a whole variety of charming things that come with being in urban-esque ministry with those who live chronically on the streets.
It wasn't the first time we waded in these waters. We had been down a similar road before with other friends we served. But they, after a few months, finally obliged and stopped staying the night and loitering (mostly). But these 2, these 2 refused to waver. And ever since it's felt like a battle. Some days it's just irritating, other days you turn a blind eye because there's not energy or time for it and other days it just infuriates you. Sometimes it's downright exhausting.
One of these friends has been MIA for a couple of weeks. We assume she's back in jail, but it could be any number of things. But he's been around. And last week we decided we needed to draw a hard line. Harder than the rules we had in place. Harder than calling the police (who rarely show up anyway and when they do take more than 45 minutes to get to the church). We decided we would have him sign a contract that said he understands how he has broken the rules and that we are enacting certain consequences as a result.
The content looks like this:
As a result of openly defiant behavior relating to Wesley UMC and its rules for participation in ministries and presence on the campus, we are enacting the following rules for ________________. The following rules are effective through March 2014, at which time a conversation with Pastor Debbie and head of trustees will be necessary before restoring any privileges or access to ministries offered at Wesley UMC.
Rule violations include:
- Breaking into buildings
- Stealing church, NA, and AA property
- Accessing church electricity without permission
- Defiance when asked to leave church property
- Stowing personal belongings in bushes and on church property.
Rules of restriction include but are not limited to:
- No mail access effective October 5, 2013. Received mail will be forwarded to an address if provided, or returned to sender.
- No Sunday breakfast, shower, or clothing privileges.
- No Tuesday morning food distribution privileges.
- No access to additional church ministries including worship, NA/AA programs, Bible studies, or special events.
Following our no trespassing ordinance:
- Sleeping on church property is not allowed at any point.
- Resting, stopping by, or sorting personal belongings is not allowed.
- Lack of church member or pastor presence does not negate any of these rules.
And yet, even knowing all that, it still sucks. When you live in a profession of second (and 157th) chances, you want people to live into the fullness of who they are. You don't want this. Not the bad behavior or the hard line.
And so, sometimes, it sucks.