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"Moving the Homeless Out"
Mon, 4 Jun 2012
I'm sitting outside here in "my other office" at REI Starbucks along the Platte River in downtown Denver and I'm frustrated by the contrasts.
I'm surrounded by yuppies, business people, commuters on bikes, and others like me that just like to hang out here for meetings, networking, etc. Yet not 20 yards from me, I'm also watching homeless folks walking up and down the river sidewalks looking for cans or just a quiet place to sleep along the green belt.
The trouble is Denver City Council has approved a "no overnight camping" ordinance as many major cities have done in order to "move the homeless out of the downtown area". This obviously has created a stir in our community and a debate and divide between those trying to help provide services to the homeless and the business/residential downtown community who frankly doesn't want the homeless around (NIMBY).
Below are a few facts about homelessness in Denver:
When our CityConnexx groups come to serve one of the most impactful times is when we go downtown or along the river to pass out lunches, water bottles, socks, hygiene packs to the homeless. We see them as fellow human beings deserving compassion, love, and care. Jesus made it pretty clear these are "the least of these" we're instructed to serve.
So what is the churches response to this increasingly complete and controversial public issue? As I drove around downtown today, I passed by many old mainline churches with doors closed and parking lots which are now leased (or sold) to private parking lot companies who let the church use the spaces free on Sundays for the few drive in parishioners who still attend. What if we could get some of these churches to just open the doors and let folks spend the night on the pews. What if they would open up those parking spaces to let folks pitch their tents. Would the police evict them off of "church property". That would be a tricky move.
We did something like this in Indy. When the City asked churches to help solve "the homeless problem" we were one of the first to open our doors and let them in. We soon established Horizon House, a day-time shelter for the homeless so they would have a place of their own to come for assistance, showers, meals, case workers, job training. And when the weather was bad, we opened a "Room in the Inn" overnight shelter.
There are solutions, there are other options and alternatives. We don't have to arrest folks for just trying to find a peaceful place to lay their head. Jesus understands and cares. He said, "the foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head".
So when you come to serve this summer, bring your sleeping bag and your tent. We just may go "occupy" a few parks or parking lots!
CityConnexx is sponsored by Compassion International. A program of YPN