“When you have a voice, you also have a moral obligation to use that voice for good.”
I have found it takes courage not to turn away from the gray-haired woman huddled in an alcove, disheveled and tattered or touch the unclean hand of a young man as I thank him with a dollar or two for cleaning the windows of my car as I fill it with gas and he hopes his entrepreneurial spirit will be rewarded with a small contribution.
The issue of homelessness in the inland region is real and it is important that we do not lose sight of the reality that when we speak about homelessness we are not referring to an abstract. After you’ve peeled back all the layers, after you’ve combed through the numbers and analyzed the issues, at the root of it all and what’s left—are the people.
As a society, it is easier to look the other way, to relegate the plight of the homeless to the misfortunes of poor life choices or mental illness or a lack of motivation or personal responsibility. Certainly, that may be true in some instances, but not all.
Regardless of the individual circumstances, in the world’s wealthiest nation, it is difficult to accept the growing number of veterans, families, elderly, single women, physically ill, addicted or mentally infirm who are left to fight for survival on the streets of America.
We look to government at the local, state and federal levels to proffer solutions to this problem. We rely on the philanthropy of NGO’S and the humanity of volunteers. Yet I often ask myself —Where are the churches? I certainly don’t wear my faith on my sleeve but somewhere I read about our mutual responsibility to help people in need–the poor, the homeless, the orphans and the widows. And yet, as I drive through communities and see the homeless sweltering in the heat or huddled against the storm I also see beautiful church facilities with their doors locked tight to keep out the uninvited.
I understand there are insurance considerations and other factors that must be considered before such institutions decide to open their doors to offer shelter and I also recognize it is also a matter of priorities. Baylor University published a report recently that showed, “Ministries provide 60 percent of emergency shelter spots available in 11 major American cities.”
I was encouraged recently when I read how some churches and temples in the Los Angeles area have unlocked their parking lots to give homeless individuals and families living out of their cars a safe place to park.
Churches in the inland region consistently support outreach efforts to help those in need. The question is–“As their sanctuaries sit empty at night while the least among us huddle in bushes and on benches, can they do more? Can each of us do more?”
This is just my opinion, I’m keeping it real.