Monday, July 27, 2009
On at least ONE point, you are right on, though. Churches and families OUGHT to be doing more about problems like this. I can tell you this, if the Church stepped up and "solved" homelessness and provided solutions for all the abused and mentally ill out there, it would put government right out of the welfare business and there's nothing in the world stopping the church (or synagogues or community groups, etc) from doing so.
Not only that, but I'd be willing to bet (since I know some of the people involved) that the vast majority of government social worker types would rejoice to be thus put out of jobs. Quite literally whoop and holler and say "Hallelujah! I'm out of a job because they eliminated the need for me!"
Further, I'd wager that such actions would do more to promote evangelism and church growth than ten million revival services or a hundred million televangelists. So, I'm glad to hear you say that churches should step up.
You may or may not know that "On any given night, 248,500 persons in families are homeless (HUD's 3rd Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress)," [source], or that "1.6 million people lived in transitional housing or in a shelter in 2008, slightly more than in the previous year. But families now make up about one-third of that number [ie, ~500,000]..."[source], or that it is estimated that up to 1/3 of the homeless population are US military veterans (an estimated 131,000 homeless on any given night) [ source], or that "the population of homeless children in the United States is estimated to range from five hundred thousand to more than two million," [source] or that there are an estimated 3.3 million people with severe mental illnesses [ source] - and that these numbers are very low estimates. Given all that and more, we can see that there are HUGE ministry opportunities for the church and families to step up and take action, to do with/for "the least of these."
I have to tell you, I am very glad that we can agree that the church should be doing more.
So, how many of these millions are you and your church helping right now?
How many more can we put you down for?
Are you prepared to take in a mentally challenged homeless lady and help her navigate through the rest of her life with her limitations?
Do you have room in your home for one more homeless family?
I have loved ones who work for Christian homelessness organizations, housing homeless families and striving to get them back in their homes and to keep their families intact. I'll be glad to give you the address so you can send a large check; maybe start a drive at your church to make more of an impact - unfortunately, the agency (like many helping agencies) are struggling right now, having not enough money to meet all the needs. Can we put you down for $100,000? $500,000?
Our church has homes we operate to help keep homeless women and their children off the streets. Can we expect a check from you to double our budget in order to help twice as many marginalized families who have no other support?
You get my point, I hope. The need is great and I would love it if churches and communities did more. In the meantime, if there is a child that is endangered, a mentally ill person who is homeless, a veteran who is in need of assistance, I'm more than glad to have a government agency step in and do something when we're all tapped out at our church and in my home.
When you start putting forth your part ("adopting" a homeless family, supporting with Big Bucks and time at a mental health agency or a homeless shelter, etc) to solve these problems, you can complain about the government doing a bad job. Until then, put up or shut up. Please.
I did a little search and found that WikiAnswers estimates that there are 450,000 churches in the US - Gallup estimates something like 320,000. If we assume that there are about, let's say, 4.5 million people who are homeless, mentally ill or otherwise in need of more support (ie, the least of these) and take the larger church estimate of 450,000, that means that each church could take responsibility for assisting ten people in need of serious support - some for the rest of their lives - and make a serious dent in these problems.
Once each church, faith tradition and community group/individuals starts putting forth THAT sort of effort to deal with problems in the US (of course, that's ONLY the US, the world's wealthiest nation, but still, it's a starting point...), THEN the complainers might have some TINY room to legitimately complain a little.