July 10, 2016: Beyond Expectations
From Sandra Rooney
Homelessness, even in our affluent countries, is undeniable. Fortunately, governments, local and federal, are beginning to take the problem seriously, and civic groups are beginning to become engaged as well.
Two recent stories spotlight very different approaches to addressing the concern. One comes from the City of Los Angeles, where plans are coming together to turn rundown motels and hospitals into efficiency apartments for homeless veterans. Back in 2009, President Obama and the Secretary of the VA announced the ambitious goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. While the Los Angeles announcement missed this deadline, their plan, nevertheless, may prove to be a model for other communities.
The arrangement calls for developers to purchase the rundown properties and turn them into efficiency apartments. Veterans will be able to use vouchers from the Department of Veteran Affairs for their rent. Supportive services, including case management and counselling, will also be provided. Additional funding will come from bonds issued specifically for funding housing for poor and homeless veterans.
The other story comes from Eugene, Oregon, where a large, tree-shaded church parking lot with a cluster of “Conestoga huts” has been home to otherwise homeless people for the last several years. This experiment, made possible under the umbrella of St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County’s overnight parking program has been so successful, for both the residents of the huts and the congregation of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, they are planning an upgrade they’re calling Hospitality Village.
Conestoga huts are very basic, 6'x10' shelters, constructed of simple materials, with two layers of insulation, up off the ground to stay dry during rain, and with a single lockable door. With donations of money and materials, the congregation plans to replace the huts with tiny 12'x8' houses that will have both heat and light. Like the Los Angeles plan, they also intend to provide counselling services.
Much of the impetus for Hospitality Village has come from parishioner Alex Daniell, who says he is “a house designer and builder at heart,” even though he made his living as a stock analyst. He’s been studying small housing ideas for some time and thinking about how it might be possible for low income folks to have a job, maybe a bike, and low enough rent to make it all possible. Now, with full support from the congregation, Hospitality Village is being born.
What aspects of this week’s scripture stand out for you? Where do you see yourself in the picture?
When and where was the last time you saw a homeless person? What was your reaction?
What is being done in your community to deal with homelessness?
What role might your faith community play?
God of love and compassion, inspire us to dream big dreams and to put our gifts to the service of those in need. May we find ways in our communities to make the impossible possible. Amen.