I attended a presentation the other day by two representatives of Portico Interfaith Housing Collaborative, a group dedicated to ending homelessness in the Twin Cities. In addition to operating emergency shelters, they work hard at providing affordable housing alternatives for homeless and lower income persons.
Adele, the member of Christ the King’s Sowers of Justice group who introduced the speakers, began with a story that is worth sharing. She spoke of hearing a pastor who had long been involved in work on behalf of affordable housing explaining why he did what he did. He explained that his family had had a long tradition of visiting shelters on Christmas Eve, bringing gifts for the people staying there. They did this year after year, and doing so gave them all a good feeling. He continued the tradition into his adult life.
One year, however, he had a conversation with one of the woman at the shelter. She thanked him for the gifts, but then said, “It is well and good that you bring gifts here on Christmas Eve. But please remember that tomorrow morning, you will wake up in your warm bed, and I will still be homeless. And I will be homeless the day after that. And the day after that. I don’t need you to bring me Christmas gifts. What I need is for you to help me find some place that I can afford to live with my children. A home where I can raise my kids in a stable environment.” That conversation spurred him to realize he needed to do more than he had been doing.
Charity is important, and I certainly don’t want to discourage efforts to provide gifts and other forms of charitable donations to those who need. But charity alone is not enough. We need to do more than feed and provide temporary shelter to the homeless; we need to find a way to find them homes, to help them have some stability in their lives. We desperately need to find ways to promote affordable housing initiatives if we are to care adequately for the least among us.
Portico has some great projects. If you are in the Twin Cities and are not familiar with them, check out their website linked above. If you are elsewhere, check out what initiatives there may be in your area.