We have been thinking about how to engage the faith community in Savannah on the moral & social issue of homelessness. In our research we came across a few models we are looking into.
Here is one we are sharing from the Seattle area & this is its vision:
The Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness has set forth its vision as being “the informed, reliable, and consistent voice of the religious community on homelessness in the Seattle and King County area.” The basic goals of the ITFH are “to provide a vehicle for the religious community to exert moral leadership among leaders in the public, business, nonprofit, and private sectors, and to exhort these leaders to form regional solutions that end homelessness and create affordable supportive housing.”
Other statements are embodied on the linked page below that might provide inspiration & points for discussion around how Savannah can come to a place where we can either create such an organization or collectively & as a community agree we are doing a good job as a faith community or we need to address areas of focus, common ground & collaboration.
Take a look at this position statement of sorts & commitment from this organization:
A Statement of Commitment
September 15, 2010
Today, we commit our faith traditions to addressing the crime of homelessness, not only in a one-day conference, not only in a ten-year plan, but from now on, and until homelessness is ended.
Homelessness is an emergency in our community. Unfortunately, we who are fortunate enough to be housed have grown used to this emergency and numb to its impact on thousands of men, women, and children. We have yet to fully demonstrate the moral vision and political will to assure that those who are already homeless in our midst receive the kind of care and compassion that we would unquestionably provide to those who might lose their homes due to an act of nature, such as an earthquake or a flood.
The practice of hospitality – by various names — is at the core of our faith traditions. Each holy book that guides us is replete with admonitions to welcome the stranger in our midst. Faith communities in our region have invited the poor and the homeless to sit at their tables and sleep under their roofs. They have created emergency shelter, transitional housing, low-income housing, meal programs, financial assistance programs, and a wide range of other services. But faith communities can’t do it all. Their ameliorative efforts, while important and necessary, do not address the underlying structural causes of homelessness. Until we do that as a total community homelessness will continue to be with us.
By this Statement of Commitment, we acknowledge that both the faith community and the community at large must do more, because we believe that the work of ending homelessness is a responsibility we share in common. We stand together today to say the following:
1. We will continue to support the intent of the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County, as well as other Ten-Year Plan efforts in Washington State.
2. We commit to collaborate in bringing the resources of our faith communities to help end homelessness, both in terms of meeting immediate need and in terms of advocating for public policies and budgets that place a priority on ending homelessness.
3. We challenge all our congregations to open their doors to those in need of emergency shelter beginning this very night.
4. We will apply the ideas of this conference and others to help refocus, renew, and restore our common commitment as citizens to bring into reality a roof over every bed.
We all know what is needed. First, we must provide a safe place to sleep for all who are already homeless. Second, we must assure that adequate funding, policies and programs are in place that help people at immediate risk of homelessness. Third, we must work for policies that will prevent homelessness: a living wage, affordable housing for all, support services, and treatment for all who face physical and mental challenges.
The commandment that we love our neighbor exists in every living faith because the wisdom of our traditions understands what is required for human societies to prosper. If we don’t fulfill our responsibility to each other, the hope of this great nation will collapse under the weight of injustice. Let us each work toward a community in which the dignity of each person is the central social, political, and spiritual fact of our common life together.
We are also led to bring a book for possible use as a discussion tool (there are discussion questions at the end of each chapter) that another model group is using in Minneapolis, MN. Their group, Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, is using this book & seems to be organized as well with a similar focus of moral leadership in this area for the community.
The book deals with some tough issues & questions. It possibly takes a deep stance on questioning the underlying fabric of our culture, the need for common good & how to create a movement around equality, justice & addressing the roots of poverty in our society.
The book is “Disrupting Homelessness: Alternative Christian Approaches” & is written by a Professor of Religion! So take a look at it on Amazon, see the reviews, check out the first chapter & start a dialog here! Use it as a discussion tool in your own faith groups & let’s get a conversation started in the community as well on what more the faith community can & should be doing to end chronic homelessness.
You see, the faith community wants to do more than make it comfortable to be homeless we feel but we just need to get started figuring this out! The reputation that the faith community often gets is that we are enabling the homeless to remain homeless, hoping that they finally “get” the faith & see a path out through getting closer to the Lord, receiving & giving blessings. This is the path out often as seen by the street ministries that reach out to the homeless. This work for the Lord is necessary. Now we have to go into the church buildings & see who wants to engage with action towards this awesome goal of ending chronic homelessness first!
Many homeless appreciate the work of the street ministries yet seem to feel a sense of entitlement from the services & help that these street ministries provide. We MUST move beyond both the enablement & entitlement phases of street ministries into solving & ending homelessness. Some are actively involved in bringing open job positions & sharing them with the homeless & even helping to build resumes for the homeless to meet the requirements of some positions.
Let’s get this need for coming together out there & figure the best way to make things happen in this crucial social & moral arena of homelessness!
- What does or should Savannah’s version of Home for Good LA look like? (homelessnessinsavannah.wordpress.com)
- Savannah needs to consider: Alternatives to Criminalization | Issue | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness USICH (homelessnessinsavannah.wordpress.com)
- An issue for Savannah to discuss too?: Boulder: Heaven for the homeless, or a town that’s short on services? – Boulder Daily Camera (homelessnessinsavannah.wordpress.com)
- Have you played the game of being homeless yet? ABCNews did this story: The Conversation: Homeless Simulation Game Forces Players to Confront Tough Choices – ABC News (homelessnessinsavannah.wordpress.com)
- A discussion on the Faith Community doing more to end homelessness & support the poor: Faith Leaders Blast House GOP Budget As ‘Immoral Disaster’ That ‘Robs The Poor’ | ThinkProgress (homelessnessinsavannah.wordpress.com)