Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homelessness in Oregon 2010

This is a summary given by Deborah Kafoury, County Commissioner here in Multnomah County:

"Last month the Oregon Housing and Community Services reported that homelessness in Oregon is still on the rise. Most notable is the increase (33%) of homeless families with children. One out of every three homeless individuals in Oregon is a child.

"For the first time, community partners collected information about the length of time that individuals experience homelessness.
· 66 percent of the people counted had been homeless for six months or less.
· 77 percent of children have been homeless for six months or less.
· 14 percent of children have been homeless for more than a year.
· 4 percent of children have been homeless for more than two years.
· Seniors (70+) have been homeless on average for 41 months."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ballot Is In!

I sent this letter out yesterday, talking about the Peace Property I mentioned a few posts ago.

Well, I received a phone call today with the Mennonite Conference’s response. In the board’s confusing lingo, this is what they said: “The board was energized by your proposal and saw great promise in it. At the board meeting July 10, 2010 the PNMC board decided to focus on your proposal in moving forward…” In summary, the Mennonites have accepted our proposal! Yea!

As stated in the proposal, the property, for the present, will still be owned by the Mennonite Conference until we are able to purchase it. What the PNMC has decided is that they would set up a “task force” group to assist us in establishing the management and in making this proposal become reality. I am very enthusiastic about this because it means that I don’t have to do all the “heavy lifting” myself. I’ll have experienced and sympathetic persons helping us establish the property as a base for peace and ministry in East Multnomah County.

They have also told us that Bethel may meet on Sunday mornings beginning in August and at the same time Anawim may begin opening up a day shelter two more days a week. Other parts of the proposal—the peace center, the community options and the winter shelter—will follow along in a timely fashion.

For those of you who have offered finances to assist us—thank you! You, along with all those who sent letters, were essential in making the vision seem realistic. If you made a financial pledge, we ask that you begin sending in that money beginning in August, and then each month after that, in accord with your pledge.

And if there are individuals or congregations who have been considering assisting us financially, we could still use your help! Whether a one time gift or monthly support, we could use whatever help you can offer to assist us in maintaining the property as well as paying for the property as a whole.

Also, in order to open up more times as a day shelter, we will need more volunteers, so any local folks who would like to help us out with that, please let us know!

There’s a lot of details yet to work out, and I will be sending more updates as necessary. This is only the first step completed in a long process!

Thank you all for your prayers and support! This was very much a team effort and every single prayer was necessary! Thank You Father for Your grace toward the poor and the immigrants, the hungry and the homeless, the beaten and the faint of heart! May we use Your gifts with faithfulness!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Does It Mean To Be Homeless?

This question seems obvious. Clearly, homelessness is being without a home. But what is a “home”? And what does it mean that someone doesn’t have one? The problem with using a term like “homeless” is that it means so many different things. And one must solve the problem of what a thing is before we can begin discussing how to solve it. If you have five people and they all mean something different about homelessness, then how can they agree how to solve it?

Homelessness is inadequate shelter
The broadest way the term “homeless” is used is for those who have inadequate shelter. These are people who may have a family taking care of them and a roof over their head. But they are considered homeless because they don’t have adequate shelter. These are folks who have a job or is physically and mentally able to get a job, but perhaps they sleep on a couch, or they live in a shelter or they sleep in a vehicle with a bed. Many of these people may not consider themselves “homeless” because of the stigma attached to it, but they are technically homeless because they don’t have even a room to live in.

Homelessness is no shelter
A more precise use of the term “homeless” is for those who have no permanent shelter whatsoever. These are folks who may sleep on the street, in a park, in the forest, in a tent, under a bridge, in a car or wherever else they can sleep. Some of these homeless are without shelter for a week, some for a month, some for years. Some of the homeless are young, some are families, some are women, and about half are single men. More than seventy percent of these homeless get off the street in a matter of months. But the important characteristic of these folks is that they have no where else to go. A very small percentage may have chosen homelessness as a lifestyle, but most were forced on the street because they had no other choice.

Homelessness is a culture
What is often forgotten by most is that homelessness describes not only a physical condition, but a social reality. Over the years, a distinct set of cultures emerged for those who have lived on the street in a long term capacity. Others, especially youth, have participated in homeless culture, while not actually being without a place to live, dressing like the homeless and participating in the homeless community. Some of the characteristics of homeless culture is: dependence on others, especially other homeless, to meet one’s needs; alternative labor such as dumpster diving or canning; not participating in the social structures of broader society, such as many holidays or formal religion; and open sharing with those in need. To be homeless, for many on the street, means a participation with the community of the homeless, a subculture and a family for those without family.

Homelessness represents extreme poverty in the West
In the West, especially the United States, homelessness is a symbol. It is a representation of extreme poverty in the West. Even as the famine-starved child is a symbol for the poverty of developing countries, so the haggard homeless man is the symbol in the United States. Homelessness is seen as the lowest one can hit in the West. If one becomes homeless, they are at the end of their rope—there is no where else to go but up.

Homelessness is rejection
Because the homeless are the symbol of extreme poverty, they also represent failure. Either homelessness is a failure of society, or it is the failure of an individual. Because many do not believe in the failure of their society, they choose to believe in the failure of every single individual who became homeless. Thus, because poverty is often seen as a failure as a person in the West, the homeless are rejected as inadequate people. The homeless can be seen as an object of pity or an object of scorn, and either response lessens them as equal human beings.

What does it Mean to End Homelessness?
All of a sudden there are a number of goals to realize. It is not just about getting people housing. Rather, it is putting a potion of a fractured society back into a proper place. Not only does there need to be healing of the homeless, but a healing of society. Not only do physical needs need to be met, but we need to learn to be more culturally inclusive. Ending homelessness is not as simple as it seems on the surface. Instead, it seems that how we end homelessness is a test for our society. How we approach the homeless is a test of just how broad and intelligent our compassion is. Keep reading this blog to discover possibly the most inclusive plan to end homelessness ever. I think.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Befriending The Poor

I wrote this as a response to an excellent article about ministry to the poor, here:

Befriending The Poor

I feel sorry for the people who have been hurt in attempting to help
the hurting and so reject the whole business. When my wife and I started
working with the needy, inviting them into our home for meals, we had our
checkbook stolen from us and someone wrote checks upwards of a thousand dollars,
which we never got back. From this, we learned that it was foolish of us to
leave our checkbook in a place where it could be stolen. Sometimes, having the
needy around is like having a toddler in the house-- our lives have to be
restructured for their safety. But it is worth it to participate in Jesus'
ministry. Praise God for His grace in allowing us to be with the people of
struggle and faith.

Illegal To Be Homeless

Every major city in the U.S. have ordinances to make homelessness illegal. Boulder is just one of them. Read here:

No camping means the homeless are illegal

Should we make it illegal to be hungry, also? To be thirsty? To suffer oppression?

Laws are supposed to create justice, not victims.

Feds, States-- make it illegal for local governments to create ordinances that oppress a group in need, without regard to any illegal activity.