Monday, September 30, 2013

Housing First. . .and Human Rights (Part II)

As I noted last Friday, over the next several days I intend to share a message that I recently delivered to a group of people who wanted to talk about housing for our homeless neighbors.  I will break it down into bite-sized pieces.  And, as always, I invite conversation.  

Efforts to end homelessness in Dallas face a number of obstacles, most of which appear in the form of what I call "unsatisfying half measures."  

Here's one:  Transitional housing or "We have a plan for your life!"

People who enjoy stable housing often believe that they know what's best for people who don't have stable housing.

Lots of us believe that homeless persons need to be made "housing ready" before being placed in a home.

Think about that for a moment.

If I'm homeless, what do you think that I think?

Would I consider myself "housing ready"?

What does that mean, after all?

One thing it means is that people with the resources believe that they need to put people through a prescribed plan before housing can be "awarded."

Two things here.

First, housing, in my view, is not an award, but a basic right that comes with being a human being.

Second, if someone else makes the plan for my life, what becomes of my plan or the expectation that I would even have one?

A couple of weeks ago, I visited with a man on the street just across from our new Opportunity Center.  He asked me if we were going to have housing in the new development.  I told him that we were not.  He continued our conversation and asked if we placed people in housing.

"Well, that depends," I said.  "What is your plan to get off of the street?"

"What is my plan to get off the street?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied.  "What is your plan to get off of the street?"

He grew silent, as if he had never been asked that question before.

"I sure don't have a plan for your life," I informed him.

"No, man," he declared, "I don't really have a plan, but I do know I need a place to live."

"Well, in that case," I responded, "we may be able to help out because we do have some apartments and we would be glad to work with you."

About this same time, John Siburt (VP of Program Administration at CitySquare) encountered a gentleman named "Big Richard" during a street outreach at mid-night.

As they talked, John asked Richard if he stayed at the Bridge or in one of the downtown shelters.

"Naw, man," he replied, "I can't stay in the shelters, man."

John asked why that was the case.

"Man, in the shelters all they want to talk about is me going to 'a class,' man.  They got a class for alcoholics and a class for drug addicts.  Man, I don't need no class for that stuff.  I don't use that stuff," he reported.

"Then, man, they want me to see a psychic doctor!" he shared with incredulity.  "Man, I ain't crazy, I'm homeless!"

He went on, pointing down the street to another person, "Now that woman down there, she crazy!" he declared.  "But, I'm not!"

Sensing that John really cared, he went on, "Then, man, I went to another shelter once and man, they had church every day, they had church, six days a week, church!  Man, than's enough church to kill a horse!" he said.

Then, he summed up.

"Man, I don't need a class or a psych doctor or church. . . I need a place."

That's what all homeless people need: a place to call "home," a place to hang a picture.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps they should learn to speek properly man, like man, what have they been doing all their life, man.

Anonymous said...

The way I read this blog, is that this homeless individual is not in a position to dictate his needs. It does appear that he needs Christian counseling and probably a "psych" Dr.

Anonymous said...

These first two comments are all critique and judgment. Funny, I don't recall Jesus ever responding that way when someone needed help. In fact, he had some pretty harsh things to say about those who leapt to judgment. His own response started with compassion and mercy.

Anonymous said...

LJ's commennts are not a judgement?

Anonymous said...

The third posting is a critique and judgement of the first two postings. Using Christianity as a Liberation Theology talking point for social action is disingenuous.

Larry James said...

Anon 7:16, how would you read Jesus' words in relationship to the real pain and need of the streets? How would you read the Gospel of Luke or the prophets or the Law or the music and wisdom of scripture as each relate to justice, compassion, service, friendship and hope?

Anonymous said...

The focus of Jesus ministry was on salvation ( on the hereafter and not the here and now) he was not about running a charitable "bed and breakfast".

Anonymous said...

The focus of Jesus ministry was on salvation ( on the hereafter and not the here and now) he was not about running a charitable "bed and breakfast".

Larry James said...

Funny, that's not at all how Luke reads. . .see 4:14ff and many other texts; and it's not how the church historically has understood things; thus the numerous hospitals, schools, housing efforts. It is easy for a person with everything to want to rush past the earth and its pain to point people to heaven. BTW--read James and 1 John. . .slowly!

Anonymous said...

Funny, that's how John 3:16 reads

Larry James said...

Anon 1:28, so all you read is one verse? Flimsy hermeneutic, I'd say. Every time the phrase treasure in heaven is mentioned by Jesus it is in context with a teaching on our requirement to serve and relieve the poor. . .try Luke 16, entire chapter.