The Community is Watching: Will Congregations Step Up?

By Mike Yoder, AM Executive Director

The headline on the front page of the Tacoma News Tribune on Tuesday, Nov. 7 declared: “Faith-based Groups Need to Do More to Battle Homelessness” (read it here). The article by columnist Matt Driscoll shared that the City of Tacoma is beginning to recognize the role that faith communities could play in addressing the homelessness emergency. With that in mind the City recently loosened some rules to make it easier for organizations to establish an emergency shelter within their facility, but to date, no church or nonprofit has applied for a permit to do so.

This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that local officials are, at last, rightly recognizing the unique and valuable role that congregations can play in addressing an issue like homelessness. Indeed, faith-based organizations have always been on the frontlines meeting the needs of the vulnerable and marginalized throughout history.

But such contributions can be easily forgotten or unrecognized. A hurting community is now asking us, either fairly or unfairly: “What have you done for me lately?” And that may be the bad news, because for many faith communities the answer is, sadly, not as much as we’d like. Certainly, we recognize finances are limited for some congregations which struggle to meet their own needs. But there are other resources that many churches possess that could be deployed in a time of crisis such as this.

What would it take for your faith community to step outside the box and consider a new way to serve; perhaps providing emergency shelter, or maybe partnering with another congregation that is? What if members of your congregation deployed themselves throughout your community to add energy and capacity to efforts already underway that serve the homeless?

Every day at AM we are blessed to learn about meaningful efforts already being done by faith communities throughout Pierce County. I shudder to think of how much worse off we’d be if these congregations were not already doing so much to love their neighbors and care for those in need.

But in a time of crisis, our hurting community sees underutilized church buildings and under-involved church members and rightly asks: are you willing to stretch your concern and commitment even further at such a time as this? More importantly, what do we hear God calling us to do? Many of our desperate neighbors are praying that we people of faith will be willing to do even more.

A great place to foster your faith communities’ involvement in addressing homelessness is at AM’s Community Quarterly Meeting. The next gathering will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 4:00-6:00 pm at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 4818 E. Portland Avenue, Tacoma. At each meeting, attendees are educated about homelessness, gain understanding about effective interventions, and discuss potential projects and solutions. Please join us!

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